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Research methods

This spring term has been spine-cracking difficult, not just because of the workload but because of what it’s transforming in me – a requirement of fulfilling what has been assigned:  Read the following ten books by next week; comment and engage in discussion online re same; define a research question and complete a lit review by the week after; build two presentations for the same two weeks 1. about narrative research 2. synopsis and discussion of a major thesis paper related to your subject….

…write a final Research Study Paper Proposal (35%) and hand it in by the end of June; change your mind about your own capacities for this work, now; imagine yourself as a much larger and more efficient person, now; sort out your philosophical and methodological tendencies; ask if you have any questions…

I come up for air to tuck into a quick poster design for a show at Leith Church in July. I realize as I make a poster using these photos that in July I get to rehearse, trade stories, laugh and cry with the persons in the photos.  Then we perform together. Who gets this in their life?!?!

poster draft, missing photo credits, and ticket information. Here is the former: Tom Thomson (Canadian 1877 – 1917), Soft Maple in Autumn, 1914. oil on plywood, 25.5 x 17.8 cm Collection of the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound, Ontario, gift of Louise (Thomson) Henry, sister of Tom Thomson, 1967, Photo credit: Michelle Wilson. Ann Michaels photo is ©2009 Marzena Pogrozaly; david sereda photo is © John Fearnall @ GoodNoise Photography. Also, you should come to this if you can. It will be more than magical.

I come up for air to meet my incredible lifelong friends at Summit Place retirement lodge where my dad is, and stumble through some challenging but lovely music. Little Fugue, Brandenburg III, Danny Boy.  Dad cries, as he always has when I play for him.  Another resident tells me afterwards that listening to us play blew the dust off his soul.

porcupine teenager, retreating after I asked him firmly to stop eating the plywood at the shore bothy. They kept coming for hours, until I firmly shooed his mama (HUGE) with a few stones, and brought all plywood inside, at 3am.

I come up for air and find myself waking at the shore, staring at an endless infinity of my friend, the Bay, who is so much a part of who I am

I come up for air and find myself playing Sibelius and the Bach Double in the midst of a high school orchestra in Meaford

I come up for air, blink my astonishment at the world, then dive back in to a deeper understanding of how much I don’t know, dive again for pearls of transformation.  Find my gills, drink humility again and again, knowing it is elixir.

 

 


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#Selfie 12: My face belongs to you

As a musician I know this – that I am most effective as a performer when I get my Self out of the way, and simply allow the music to flow through me and out.  People who are listening are then much more able to hear and recognize themselves in what’s being played, and can then respond more deeply.  Who I am matters, of course, and whether I’m grounded, healthy, emotionally honest and stable – but only in the way that a conduit should be strong and wide enough for the greatest amount of energy to travel through it.

cellobelly

In the weeks of working with the ubiquitous #Selfie phenomenon I’ve come to wonder if in fact it works this way with my face, too.  I know my voice is, but my face also?  An instrument?

A strange sensation, looking at this photo of my cello.  It's like looking at my own back.

I feel a strange sensation looking at this photo of my cello. It’s like looking at my own back.

I can’t tell what I look like when I’m in conversation with other people.  I suspect, because of the wide gamut of responses I get, that I look differently to close friends than I do to colleagues, differently again to family than to strangers.  A good and longtime friend remarked some months ago that he’d never seen my face look so open.  In response I immediately closed it, and said, with some gruffness, “Nobody sees my face this open”.  Certainly not I.

the latest #Selfie painting - 5 feet wide by 6 feet tall - about the way negative and positive are both required to describe an object, an idea, a person.  Who one is, and also who one is not.

the latest #Selfie painting – 5 feet wide by 6 feet tall – about the way negative and positive are both required to describe an object, an idea, a person. Who one is, and also who one is not.

At this point I believe that my face is like a sketchbook for use by whomever I engage with.  I wear it in public knowing that it’s up to me to keep it clear of furrowed brow or clenched jaw, since if that is written there I will most likely encounter anxiety, repressed anger, rigidity and emotional blocks in the people I meet.

There are at least ten thousand songs written about this.

I suspect that this painting will be mostly finished by tomorrow morning.  Art factory, here...

I suspect that this painting will be mostly finished by tomorrow morning. Art factory, here…

It’s also up to me to keep my cello in tune and my bow tightened, with good rosin on the horsehair.   In between painting tasks I habitually run through finger exercises, dissect and practise tricky solos to ensure that I’ll present well at the concert tomorrow.

There is personal expression, yes.  But I would say that it’s an exchange of sensibilities, awareness, perception and empathies between me and you.  A live improvisation, if you will.  In a good conversation we reflect all of this for each other by changing the shape of our mouths, foreheads, moving our eyebrows, opening or closing our eyes, shifting our gaze away then back from each other.

My face is more familiar to you than it is to me, when all is said and done.  You can tell, often before I can, whether something is wrong or right in my internal world….

a posed #Selfie.  Always less comfortable, since I'm looking at a camera through my face that I don't know.

a posed #Selfie. Always less comfortable, since I’m looking at a camera through my face that I don’t know.

I have the same odd feeling looking at this photo as I do with the back of my cello.  Is THAT what I look like?  It resembles me, but no, it’s only one of many possibles.  I suspect I look quite different when I’m with people.

But then we need all parts – including the shadow – to describe the whole.

 

I have a PS.

Anyone in the area who loves smart, engaged young people should come to this concert at Meaford Hall tomorrow (Monday May 26).  The GBSYO is an incredible team of folks with great energy and skill.  They’ll be joined by more excellent string players from the Georgian Bay Secondary School in a massive string orchestra.  I’m very excited and honoured to be part of it.  Do come – I know you’ll love it.

GBSYO_May2014_finalB