Hi folks, this one has been in danger of turning into a middle-aged rant!:
The hijacking of Concentration
When I was a student (at the Guildhall, London in the early 1600’s) I divided my time between
contemporary composition and saxophone practise, a lot of it.
As a kid I had a wooden pyramid wind-up metronome but now I had bought a new-fangled digital version, with volume control, small enough to carry in my case.
As the practice rooms were a little resonant and I didn’t like wearing an earpiece, I sticky-taped the thing to my shoulder so I could play at louder volumes and walk around the room, allowing my concentration to deepen into the groove I was internally constructing over this incessant “blip blip” pulse.
In the end I would silence the device but my inner ear would trick me into still hearing and playing along with that click track, again, an act of concentration, in fact unless I got to a certain level of concentrated focus, no work of any importance was ever done.
What if that metronome also kept sending me messages from friends and family, pictures of cats and cappuccinos, all of which I simply had to respond to? What if the upright piano I studied my harmony on, was equipped with a computer-window into everything else on the planet, tempting me to surf the web every half an hour?
I’d be screwed.
I know that I would have faced a barrier to a most vital thing in creative endeavour, the development of concentration.
Why are there folk around that think they are going to get good enough at anything with such diluted, flimsy concentration that makes practising even for a single hour almost impossible?
With the opportunity to talk to virtually anyone, virtually, – virtually all the time, comes the necessity to reactivate and hone that most unpopular, despised and berated attribute, that of restraining the senses. We need to block out the din, seeing ALL of it (even important stuff) as distraction, whilst working at our craft.
I am aware that many students naturally have the capacity to do this, thank God, you are better than I would have been!
BUT…I feel that the 24 / 7 social media life that many of us share is, above all, ONE thing:
It is somebody else’s business plan.
My generation may be the last to know that NONE of what Instagram, Facebook and the others have to offer is actually necessary to sustain life on earth.
The main reason we have become hooked on it all, is very effective business / marketing planning by those who make a fortune out of our need to be distracted.
It is little different, when stuck to your phone in every “down-time” moment, to feeding an addiction to say, Mars Bars, the folks who invented them rub their hands together at our helpless neediness.
The difference now is that aspects of living, not just frivolous memes and cappuccinos, but all the most serious stuff, depend upon the same products. Very cool, but cancerous to the still, creative Soul in us,.. if you can roll with my turn of phrase.
So I would make a plea to anyone wanting to create something other than surface level imitation of all the stuff beamed at us, try turning all the toys OFF. Go and Woodshed, look here’s a picture of a shed:
Go through the mini- cold turkey and jitters, and dig deep enough to find something that is worthy of you. You are NOT somebody else’s business plan!
Slow-cook your food, slow-cook your practise, your listening, your creative writing. Use all the tech that you need like an athlete consumes nutrition, you being in charge of IT, (see what I did there.. I.T.?) You probably won’t die.