jun 22

Boats & oceans

Every time I head into the practice room, it’s as though I’m a Boatmaker heading into the vast Ocean with my latest crafted vessel. I push off from shore and pray it will hold up in the unforgiving waters.

In the early days, just getting my boats to float was an accomplishment! But progress is made. Eventually, I arrive at designs that can take on waves. Then storms. On and on … till one day, I arrive at a design that can take on whatever challenge The Ocean throws at me.

Grand designs

Some disciplines are like painting. They are constructionistic in nature. While other disciplines are more like sculpting.

When one first picks up an instrument, there’s a notion that one must tack on technique after technique to arrive at a state of know-how that resembles a hairball of knack.

At first, it seems that technique is like painting: one must slather onto the ‘canvas of chops’ more and more learned things until the canvas is chock full of abilities.

However, technique is actually a reductionist process, like that of sculpting. The musician must take a menu of body movements, and with good sonority as our gauge, remove all the extraneous elements.

Crashing waves

Even after thousands of hours, one’s technique can feel like a crudely designed boat.

But it’s important to keep on iterating, trying to always get it right. After all, The Ocean is a hard customer: it will sink all poor designs.

Like a Boatmaker, if we musicians keep venturing, keep scheming new designs, and always be whittling away the extraneous, then one day, indeed, our technique can weather anything that is thrown our way.