Monday, October 15, 2012

Guest Blog Post - Mr. Seth Hedquist - Inspiration

This week's blog post is by our instructor of guitar and jazz improvisation, Seth Hedquist

Inspiration In Unexpected Places 
by Seth Hedquist

Inspiration knows no vocation. It is just inspiration. Having sources for inspiration outside your chosen area of study may help you return to your comfort zone refreshed and with a simpler outlook at what you do.

I hope I never forget the Winter Olympics of 2010 for many reasons. The most poignant moment in my mind was watching skier Lindsey Vonn before she hit the slope in one of her many exciting runs. The camera showed her going through a mental run through of the course just moments before she went down the hill. She stood off to the side of the jump-off point in full gear, eyes shut, arms in ready position, head tilting to and fro as she went over the course in her mind. As if the course itself, with its twists, turns, ups and downs, were a piece of music, Vonn seemed in that moment to be the conductor.

More recently, in preparation for a master’s course in history, I finally took my mother’s advice and read a book called Remember Everything You Read: The Evelyn Wood 7-Day Speed Reading and Learning Program by Stanley D. Frank. I have for as long as I can remember struggled with finding motivation to read. It was always more of a “have to” than a “want to” because I never found a way around reading every single word. Reading a book therefore made for a long commitment. That is until the Evelyn Wood Method taught me to let go of my old mentality by catching a couple of old habits in action. First of all, I would continuously regress as I read, often reading a single sentence over again to make sure I understood it. While that may sometimes be necessary, it made for a poor pace as I tried to get through the book. Likewise I was always unconsciously accompanied by my “hidden voice” which sounded out every word. This too had its uses but the Evelyn Wood Method seemed to argue that such a technique is essentially just one gear to drive in. 

As I was reading Frank’s book I realized that I fell into these same habits when sightreading music. Even though I knew the vocabulary, the notes and rhythms, I let the “hidden voice” slow me down when I could have been cruising, and constantly second-guessed myself as I went along. Now I am a better sightreader as a result of the Evelyn Wood Method. Even more importantly, I want to sightread more.

Those history books I began taking home and reading in this new way seemed all the more simple too. In the best ones the authors did not ramble. They just stated their purposes, told their narratives and brought their works to a conclusion. In coming back to music I feel the aim is not that different. Listen to jazz standards like Stella By Starlight by Victor Young or Emily by Johnny Mandel. Take a turn into the classical realm and listen to Un sospiro by Franz Liszt. These incredible pieces of music have their melodic “thesis statements” too, and take the listener on lovely journeys to the end.

Inspiration does not stop, even when you stop doing “your thing.” I recommend you be open to sources of inspiration in other fields. They may tell you more about your area of study, and perhaps yourself, than you may have known had you only looked within your comfort zone. Wherever it is received, acknowledge inspiration for what it is and channel it into what you do. Then come back to the music refreshed and ready to inspire.

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