“A different perspective” Photo of Jana Philipp, 2016

To continue where we left off last week, some thoughts on un-practice. I’m borrowing the concept from William Westney, whose book The Perfect Wrong Note I mentioned in last week’s post. He uses the terms “un-lessons” and “un-master classes” to reflect a different way of conceiving of these terms. A shaking up, a standing-on-its-head, a mixing up and newly imagining of the so-called “tried and true” (I just made a telling typo–I was going to write “tired and true”!). So the next extrapolation is to prepare un-lessons with un-practice…

At the beginning of this week when I met with my students for our usual Monday group lesson (another teaching paradigm that Westney praises for its horizontal and experiential learning possibilities), we talked about ways we might turn around our practice. We talked about paying attention to the experience of it and challenging ourselves to be more experimental and playful, rather than being focused on routines and results.

Today, I had the pleasure of interacting with a student who had made some fascinating discoveries through this kind of change in their practice, delighting in the differences in sensation of groundedness (or not) in the body depending on position. This student had experimented with singing while lying down or across the piano bench, lying on the floor, standing, squatting… They said they had had so much fun while doing this, and noticed so many new things, that practice became exciting and pleasurable. So we spent the ensuing lesson we had simply playing around with balance–singing standing on one leg, then the other, then having the student compare the two experiences while vocalizing.

Discoveries: there was recognition that one side of the body seemed more stable, so in further explorations, we wondered if one side of the body could “teach” the other to find more stability, noting if there was a difference if we allowed a “sojourn between poles” by standing on both legs. This resulted in a much more integrated singing sound, a whole body experience of singing, and real, embodied understanding. In so doing, it also ignited my own excitement to try some less conventional methods in my own practice later on in the day. There was less expectation of outcome (and less caring about a particular result–all results were interesting!) and much more joy in the simple process. The “un-doing” will continue in the coming weeks. Reports to come.