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The Musical Mind - by Kim LaCoste
A musical mind is different from other types of minds. It has been proven that the earlier a child begins his/her study in music, the part of the brain that separates the two hemispheres grows, as the brain is preparing itself for new information. It has also been shown that learning music at an early age enhances a child’s mind for learning other subjects, such as match and science. A person with the mind of a musician takes on various forms, in that he/she is affected by the surroundings in which he/she exists. So much can affect the mind that contains ideas of music, to the point where the music itself can work for or against the person. I’m not talking about drug or alcohol abuse. I speaking to the psychological aspects where just striving to achieve in music against a lot of negative factors can be so demanding one can lose his/her grip on life. The words “hang in there” are very close to home when it comes to musicians.
I can say that because I have been waiting a long time to reach the “rainbow” where the idea of a day job is nonexistent. I don’t have an unrealistic perception about success because I’m not about the money when it comes to my music. Success to me one day will be when I don’t have to get up at 4am four days a week to work 10 hours in an office. If I don’t maintain a positive attitude toward my music, I will fail – period. That’s one side of dealing with life when it can mess with your psyche, especially if you have a strong love for music. On the other hand, let’s say that you have to put up with jealous spouses/girlfriends. Stress of this type can impact your performance, your compositional skills and/or your overall peace of mind. This is the kind of crap that a musician (or anyone, for that matter) doesn’t need. Musicians were born to play music, not be involved with war games! A musical mind goes on a long journey. There are so many levels of development: there’s the beginning, where you learn simple, yet fundamental aspects, such as understanding what a staff is, the treble and bass clefs, the difference between whole, half or quarter notes, or learning time signatures, such as differentiating between what it means to read something in 4/4 or cut time. You begin to learn simplistic melodies/rhythmic patterns and if the ability is in you, you graduate to much more complex musical situations. Throughout all of this development, it’s crucial for such an abstract mind to have positive input, as negative input only destroys a person’s aspiration to succeed in this art form. Then there’s mind expansion via the use of drugs or alcohol for one’s creativity. One should not fool oneself. For some, what you may see as being harmless and/or recreational can hurt you in the long run. However, there are those who have been able to compose even more creatively under the influence of alcohol, stimulants or hallucinogens. I suppose it’s a matter of how much you have control over it. We’ve read too many stories about what happens when the substance takes control.

Time can have a very strong effect on you as well. There will be periods when you will be absolutely frustrated, feeling that your progress is not coming along fast enough. I had been playing jazz on my electric-bass for at least 12 years before I became good at the technique known as “walking”. One night, I was doing a gig, and the notes just came to me. I had finally found a way to make my playing more fluid when I played jazz. There is that generic way of playing this technique and then there’s the artistry of walking that you’ll hear done by bassists who played for folks like Miles Davis. There is a big difference: the generic version is derived from thinking too much in terms of music theory. The latter version comes from the bassist’s heart…he’s not just playing a particular note, he is the note! He is feeling what is going on with the music as a whole, from whatever the pianist is doing vs. the soloist or drummer. He makes the bass become a voice, rather than just another part of the group. I don’t know if I’m making myself understood here, but I hope some of you understand what I mean. I’ve only been playing the acoustic-bass for three years. It wasn’t until this year that I have begun to play with more strength and creativity. Like I said, a mind filled with music needs time…time to go through life in all its good and bad, and transfer the experiences into musical formats.

A musician’s mind is such a wonderful thing: this type of person looks at the world with a more philosophical, poetic approach especially if he/she has had loving support from family and friends. Beauty to musicians can be found anywhere and in anything, from the most ordinary to the very exquisite. Musicians are funny, too, in that they use different sounds that they hear, man-made and those of nature and incorporate them into their music. A friend of mine told me once that he was performing at a park and the trees were filled with birds. He said that the birds got so loud with their chirping they were overpowering them! For me, there is something about playing outdoors that is very comforting, especially if I’m surrounded by trees and lakes. There is a connection between nature and music and when the two come together, it’s almost indescribable.

Another nice concept of a musical mind is the ability to read another musician’s thoughts. This is very evident in musicians who are very passionate and unselfish with their ideas. Their sole reason for being on stage is to share ideas, not say “look at me”. I love it when I can accompany someone who’s soloing and he/she is able to travel to whatever musical destination he/she wishes, knowing that there is another mind right with them, exploring that “terrain”. Unfortunately, people with hyperactive egos miss out on this very important aspect of music because they’re too busy trying to impress themselves than interact with others. It’s like they say: there’s good and bad in everything

The greatest value of having a musical mind is that it never dies… I will be old one day, but my music will always be with me. All I can tell you is this: take care of your musical mind, for it is one “being” that will never betray you.

BY Kim Michele LaCoste

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