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33. Prelude and Fugue in E minor from Book 2


When beginning on the path of meditation, the propensity of the mind to move rapidly around in a game of free association can seem like a real drawback. Indeed it is enough to put many people off - ‘I tried meditating once but I was no good at it’ . When it comes to embarking on a creative project, however, this same propensity of the mind to free-associate is a vital and positive part of the energy to be harnessed. This project began from a series of 48 Post-it notes placed on a large white sheet in four colour-coded groups of twelve. Each Post-it note then became a vehicle for the free association of ideas around certain central themes. Similarly with the composition process - the initial spark comes from the free-associating mind, not the rationally weighing and sifting mind that comes in later. Music is an amazing activity for engaging the right and left sides of the brain together. Nowhere is this clearer than in thinking about pulse and rhythm. The feel of the pulse of a piece of music does not lie in the 1 2 3 but in the spaces in between. It is essential to feel a sense of both accent and duration. Without those, no amount of counting beats will produce music with any inner rhythm. When you hear music that speaks, that communicates emotion, that moves you, this experience is happening in real time which is flowing time which is what mystics call the eternal now. The music moves from one beat to the next to the next to the next without losing connection. The performer is present, the listener is present. We are all learning to hear the spaces just as when we feel good when we stand by running water it is because at some level of our being we are experiencing a heightened consciousness of the spaces between things. In what we often take to be ‘normal’ consciousness we experience ‘reality’ as being composed of a set of discrete objects with us viewing them or listening to them as an independent observer. With everything unfolding along a clear linear time line. With heightened consciousness, however, we experience ‘reality’ more closely to how physicists now understand the world to be. If we find it helpful we can call this a mystical consciousness, but it is definitely something that we can break into at any moment from any situation. When this breaking into a more universal consciousness takes place through playing or listening to music it is because the mind is free to experience what is really happening - which is constant change. The sound of a note on the piano is not a steady state but a constant flux changing in dynamic and colour. The decay in the sound is a given from the nature of the instrument itself. Pulse has to be steady to create space in which the music can come to life. This is surely what Chopin meant when he told his pupils that the left hand must remain regular like a metronome while the right hand should sound completely improvised. This is how jazz works too - the simultaneity of order and freedom, discipline and chaos, left and right brain working together. The energy of mental free-association being harnessed to a framework of stability.