Time: 20 mins of playing + a small monologue
Environment: evening, living room seated at corner of table, just me and Will in apartment (L in Melbourne)
Companion/s: concert flute, uneven floor + wobbly monitor on the dining room table, some small Willow appearances
I stayed with some soft high-pressure sounds for this one. It was late-ish in the evening and I wasn’t sure if our neighbour’s young daughter was home and trying to sleep. So a lot of thin, turned-in flute sounds, playing with tension and fragility, and then some breathier, tongue-directed, bottom-end-closed-against-my-leg sounds. Whispers and whistles and choked soundings.
This was on Wednesday, and I’d come back from an afternoon GoMA (Asia Pacific Triennial!) visit with friends – one of whom was going to an art gallery for the first time, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a space for him as an Aboriginal man, and that he felt welcomed and connected deeply with some of the works on display. I won’t write more here, to protect his privacy and to not pretend to understand his particular experience, but it was a deeply moving moment for me, and personally I actually got much more out of those artworks than I had the first time around – both through what he said he saw in them, and the privilege of sharing that space with him, as well as just taking some extra time to sit with the works. It was a beautiful shock for both of us I think.
We went for dinner at Punjabi Palace afterwards and I ate more than my fill of chana masala, so that my belly was still a bit too full when I pulled my flute out at home. So there was a bit of discomfort there as well as a deep existential (and physical!) satisfaction.
Unlike the previous day, I was better able to stay with the sounds and have the patience to follow them where they were going. But I still hit a small wall 15 minutes in. I started to speak aloud to record some of my thoughts and feelings in that moment.
When do I stop? I stop when I feel a kernel of frustration somewhere in the back of my neck. It’s like a little internal sigh that doesn’t get manifested, it’s like ugh, what, no, this – what are you doing? Is it some kind of judgement that gets turned on? It’s a weariness. It’s definitely in the back of my neck but also probably somewhere in my stomach region, somewhere, like, in my forehead, where this feeling of frustration – it’s like a pressure that’s both internal and external. Exasperated pressure. And I just don’t want to deal with anymore so I just stop. But it sets in and goes away very quickly, it’s a split second thing almost before I realise what happens, or what’s happening, I’ve already stopped. It’s rare that it happens in performance, it’s very common in practice sessions, even when I’m recording. It’s definitely something around a self-critical gaze, an internal gaze. [plays] I think it comes out of a feeling that I start thinking sometime before the frustration sets in thoughts like ‘oh I should do something that’s in more sensible’, in terms of like being able to understand, legible scale patterns maybe, or less in the particular kind of microtonal language that I find myself in very often. But that self-comment comes some time before and I pushed away but something in it still lingers, and then a few seconds to a minute later I suddenly find myself getting that little pressure and just stopping. It’s a give-up. Because listening back, especially to the session on the 5th, I can hear that I’m sort of stopping and starting in the second half of that and the ideas aren’t bad and they’re not getting tedious, like I could transition from one into the next. But I increasingly just do these blocks of sound where I’m just doing one thing for a while and I don’t really introduce other ideas – I develop it for a bit, but not a lot and it doesn’t really ever, or rarely develops into something new, it usually stays within its material set. And then I get fed up with it and then I move onto the next thing. On that occasion I was moving on really quickly. I was going from one thing to the next with very short breaks in between. But on days where I’m struggling more with it all, the breaks are longer and the stuff that I’m playing is less vibrant, there’s less of a commitment behind it, there’s less enjoyment and liveliness to the sound. I’m not really getting excited by what I’m doing. Then it starts to feel tired and old and heavy, like I’ve done it before, and it’s really hard to get it moving and moving into something new and shifting, it’s a very stuck kind of energy.
Then I move into more scale-like patterns and dancing around. It’s silly in a way, because if I want more versatility and a kind of freedom in scale runs, I just need to practice more scales! I think I want to feel like I can construct new scale-worlds in the moment and fly through them without too much conscious brain decision making. I don’t want to go through traditional tonalities to get to this freedom. I want new ways of practicing, not old ones. This is part of the reasoning behind some of my PhD research and thinking. But maybe it just needs some kind of reframing?
At some points in this session I play with a kind of weird rhythmic interjection by the wobbling monitor that’s on our living room table at the moment. But mostly I think I’m playing with my own thoughts interpreted as limitations. In the last seconds I’m also joined by phone notification buzzes.