Sunday, August 25, 2013

Routine fun

I'm truly in a routine now. I work at the Exploratorium 4 days a week, and it's enough to let me rest, read, and meditate on the days off. Here are some ongoing projects:

For the past two weeks I've been doing an improvisation-a-day and posting the goodies to SoundCloud. At this point I'm doing it consistently enough that I can give myself a day's break between sessions to listen and post. I've also found some goodies at an improv group on that site, but the styles vary widely.

My last post was one of several that touch on spiritual and mental growth I've experienced since joining a Buddhist meditation center. The East Bay Meditation Center strives to be uniquely inclusive to everyone and relies on donations in an ancient multifaith tradition. They are hosting a 24-hour teaching event next month I look forward to attending. (Just the day time -- I have a routine to keep, after all.) You can find my fundraising page here and please feel free to share.

I also made a fun recording of Wichita Vortex Sutra two-tracking it. I'm not sharing it publicly because it's all under copyright, but if you would like a download let me know how to reach you in the comments below. Ginsberg intended the poem from which text came to be a holy text against war. We can make that!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Freedom from Internal Harm

Common well-wishes or blessings in Buddhism include freedom from pain and suffering and their causes and conditions, and safety from internal and external harm. Last week I realized I have access to this in a new way. It's perhaps like realizing you can take control of a dream when it goes nightmarish, but still have moments without lucidity, thinking it's real.

It's that thoughts are just thoughts. I can choose to let it go instead of growing it and clawing at it and punishing myself for it. I can let it go instead of blaming myself and making up a frightful story of who I am as a person for having had it. How could I have made such an ugly judgment of him?! I'm so judgmental -- it doesn't matter, I chose not to act on it and it's gone. I've already bested 9/10 choosing the responsible action or speech while having worse thoughts. But first one must notice that thought for what it is.

Not to say thoughts can't be wonderful; like dreams, they bring joy and innovation as well. But usually I want more awareness and knowledge that allow responsible choices. So let me realize when a dream is a dream, a thought a thought, so I can choose. The relief and clarity I now have are worth every sitting meditation, every moment of receptive listening practice.

It's not instant freedom, but after the first time you fly out of a nightmare, you know you alone have control.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Daily recordings now on Soundcloud

To celebrate my reunion with my piano, for a limited time I'm posting short selections of improvisations. On the right navigation bar, scroll down to "More where that came from" and hit "SoundCloud Recordings." They are all simply titled "Pianon," where n is the number in the series.

The first one is probably more typical of what I do, the second a poke at A major tonality, the third a splash in the octatonic. If you have comments or suggestions for future improvs, this is probably the only instance where I welcome them; write below or in the comments option on SoundCloud.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Marina Abramovic's Reddit "Ask me anything"

Reddit showed up well after I'd lost my fascination with crowd forums. I stumbled into this "Ask me anything" thread while researching this month's action on Congressional representatives. (They are home; please call and visit them.)

I read all her responses. The more I read, the more they reflected a profound, non-denominational stillness and wisdom that resonated with what I find in Buddhist meditation practice. It was so inspiring to connect radical performance art with my spiritual journey of the past five years.
poiein: You said that “The hardest thing is to do something which is close to nothing, because it’s demanding all of you.” What is the closest thing to nothing you have ever done?
Abramovic: Completely surrendering to my migraine attack when I could not move or open my eyes, just let pain take over. 
I continue to believe my experience in the sadism/masochism community gave me initial access to so much that I value: courage, trust in myself, willingness to use the control I have, ability to discern control that was mine or not. It was my initial experience of controlled deviation from my own mental habits and conventions. Although I now choose meditation and mindful daily practice with abstinence from BDSM and sexual relationships, I accept those past experiences with pride.
saintdada: Marina, when you are having a bad day what do you tell yourself/ what keeps you going?
Abramovic: I'm not attached to bad day or good day. We always know after the rain the sun will come. It is a law of nature. When it is really, really bad day, I take a long bath full of Kosher salt and baking soda, soak for 30 minutes, and I feel better. 
Classic! We accept that sometimes reality is painful, and practice discernment where it's so painful that we care for ourselves and each other to recover. We have confidence that the pain was real and that recovery is possible because the capacity for wellness remains within each of us, without exception.
zoebokany: Have you ever doubted yourself? 
Abramovic: In my emotional life. Never in my artistic.
walmartsushi: How do you come up with an idea for a performance piece? How do you flesh it out? How do you think about communicating the meaning of a piece? 
Abramovic: I only pick up the ideas who I am afraid of or who are disturbing or who I have never been in that territory before. Ideas who are nice, friendly, or I like them I do not choose because they are too easy. It's very important to create high standards for yourself, no matter what. My ideas come from life not from studio. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

McCrea's piano moving: a composer's review

I've never reviewed a piano moving before.

This was the first one I've ever watched. Despite having had this piano moved three times since I bought it in 2007, I've managed to avoid being present for any of it until today.

On moving day, I waited for the phone call. And waited. Noticing caffeine jitters at 11:30am, I microwaved meal food and started on a bowl. Then the phone rang. They would be at the starting place in 20 minutes; I covered the bowl, hopped on my bike, and zipped to Rockridge.

My friend, the house owner who has been keeping my piano since I started traveling, had left his affectionate black lab in a harness, but it was easy to entice him into the closed yard. I sat nervously with him moment after moment, getting up to look every time I heard truck engines or doors slam. On the fifth or sixth trip into the house I saw the boldly marked Piano Mover truck in the driveway and awkwardly stepped onto the stoop to greet the movers. I felt small, flimsy, on borrowed property.

Two of the three men worked quickly and with the quiet grace I'm used to seeing in rehearsal. Greg, the maestro, communicated in piano-moving code, single words and brief phrases to coordinate lifts, tilts, and props like dollies and carpeting pieces. In a single breath he noted and dismissed the thickness of the piano. Then, the piano was in the air, resting on a roll of carpet on its smallest edge.

Then it was on a dolly and down the steps in a blink. My breaths were long in wonderment and terror. My body felt exactly as it does during dissections, when I cut and when I witness cutting.

The dog never barked. I thought I heard his steps on the other side of the wooden gate after the piano was already out of the house. I let him back in, bid him farewell, and biked home. I had barely caught my breath and finished my lunch back in the house when Greg knocked.

The front steps were steep. A side entrance had too many narrow turns.

Once they crossed the bottom concrete steps, it was shoulder strength. They used a roller like an upside-down dolly to smooth each lift, step by step. That smallest edge had to land squarely on each step or risked spilling. Every tilt that wobbled sent air rushing into my lungs, my heart clenching. My attention frequently returned to my face: mouth gaping, then smiling, then gritting teeth; eyes wide.

At the top step they popped it onto a dolly and prepared for the easy part. I complimented them for the impact the  performance had on me. My room is immediately adjacent the front door, but there was another series of hiccups fitting the cups under the wheels. If it wasn't perfectly centered it would pop out from under the piano's weight, sometimes shooting some distance from underneath. After many lifts, the mover on his belly popped it under the trouble wheel.

Greg tried a few of the keys while I was recovering from the nerves of the whole experience.

Before today I honestly had paranoid images of the stairs splintering under the weight and even my floor giving way. After they brought up my bench and were on their way I tried the middle movement from Mozart's a-minor sonata K310. I feel solid now.