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Home > Columns > Paul Schweer > December, 2006 - Deep Within Or Dancing Around

Deep Within Or Dancing Around by Paul Schweer


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When I was five I got a red drum for Christmas. It had a thin snare and a tight crisp sound. There were rules to when and where I could play, but I don't remember resenting the rules. But I do remember that red drum, and being excited about playing.

I also remember a guitar. It wasn't mine. I'm not sure where it came from. It was an old, sorry looking thing. Not sure when I noticed it, or why. But the timing -- would have had to have been about a year or so after getting that drum -- it seems likely I was encouraged to experiment with it as a comparatively attractive alternative to the drum.

The guitar's body was fairly small, so I fit to it okay, but the neck was impossibly thick. And the strings left deep black groves in my fingers. But I kept messing with it.

When I was seven I started taking lessons.

I was nervous about taking lessons, about being in that room full of instruments and sheet music. About being in front of my teacher -- I saw how people treated him, what they thought of him -- about being asked to learn. To perform. To lay hands on an instrument and make music.

The only thing I had in my experience at that point was the red drum. That, and some want to. And enthusiasm. I brought it all to bear on that sorry guitar... and my teacher allowed it to pass without comment, allowing the silence that followed my attempts to speak for him. Sometimes he would demonstrate, then ask me to try again. Sometimes he would place my fingers on the frets, and tell me to listen -- play the chord like it wants to be played -- sometimes he would say, "There." Or, "That's better."

But he did not tell me how to do it. Or how it might be done. Or what 'it' is. What he did was show me position, how to place my body relative the instrument. How sound is organized -- rhythm, tempo, scales, chords, changes -- then encourage me to listen for... music. Not to make music, to listen for it.

Music is more than organized sound, but I can't tell you how or how much. I assume that aikido, if it is an art, also has a certain element. A little music, if you like. I don't know what it is or how to make it happen, even if I am learning something about how things are organized and what to do with my body. There is no music in what I'm doing. I'm not even sure there's music to be heard, but I am listening.

Trouble is there is a lot of noise happening. Lot of it coming from inside my head. Lot of it coming from people talking, people I'd do better to ignore. Lot of it coming from practicing, how I am treated sometimes, or not... what I do sometimes in spite of me. Lot of it coming from human stuff, who wants to be recognized for what, who wants to be left alone or elite. How I fit in, or not, with all that. A lot of noise I'd like to tune out.

But maybe somewhere in all of that, deep within or dancing around it -- if I could tune it in -- is a little music.


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