The ‘Imprint / Express’ concept
One thing I often hear from students or musicians I work with is that they find very difficult, musically speaking, to be satisfied with themselves. It seems that nothing is gained forever and that there’s always something missing. It can be very frustrating to see so directly our weaknesses in our passion, in our professional work, on this everlasting path. A solution has to be found in order to gain peace with this aspect.
Something I discovered that helped me cope with this feeling of dissatisfaction is this: There is a time to ‘imprint’ things (in my memory, in my body, in my feelings) and a time to ‘express’ (ideas, movements, emotions).
One first important principle is that during ‘expression’, the consciousness of the weaknesses discovered and worked on during the time allowed to ‘imprint’ MUST stay away. This has to be attained in order to leave the ‘expression’ part as intact as possible. There can be something constructive about being dissatisfied but there’s a time to leave this dissatisfaction aside. I had to learn to make a difference between those two elements and let them SEPARATELY take part of the whole process.
As an example, when I do a concert or when I play for dance classes, I have to ‘express’ something that has already been ‘imprinted’, that is solid enough to be ‘expressed’. It’s time to share energy, appreciate the beauty of music, to ‘groove’, make things feel right… not to try things that might break the flow of music, of the dance. Once this constant state is attained, the music respected, some surprises might happen but never despite the quality of good music.
Related to this last example, I’ll continue by saying that the ‘imprint’ aspect often nourishes itself from observations made about past ‘expression’ moments. You wanted to ‘express’ something but you had to leave it because it could have been a risk to the smooth flow of the music at that given moment. But during the ‘imprinting’ periods, the time is right to work on these things that might come out naturally at one of the next ‘expression’ occasion!
What I do for years is that I allow some special time just to ‘imprint’ things. This part has to be planned
and peacefully approached. Giving time to this aspect makes me appreciate its proper value. During this period, it is allowed to try things, to spend time on new material, to make researches to find the solutions for specific problems. Also, psychologically speaking, there is NO reason to feel frustrated at these moments because they are meant to work on things that we’re not familiar with. I feel that my passion for music can grow stronger at these moments because I can see more and more its beauty, its logic, but also it makes me realize how little I know about it. There’s no end to the understanding of music but why not continue with what we know, what we feel and, little by little, adding new things, a new consciousness to it!
Another point is that after my personal practice, I often felt that I didn’t cover enough material. I had to accept that to ‘imprint’ something new takes time. When I went in India to study with my tabla teacher, I often had to spend one hour, non-stop, on a new phrase, in order to get the right feeling of it. Giving time to a new composition made me appreciate its richness, made me aware of the different muscles implied, made me see gradually the intricate the logic of it. This couldn’t have happened if I had just spent a few minutes to learn it and then quickly moved to something else. I’m very grateful to him for teaching me this way of learning and practicing.
Personally, an ideal rehearsal would consist of these three elements: ) Working on new techniques and concepts, ) Doing a revision of the material previously learned and, ) Elaborating on material that has already become natural.
In other words : ) Starting to ‘Imprint’ something new, looking at something that has already been approached (on its way to become ‘imprinted’), and ‘expressing’ (making things go further with the help of this fresh ‘present’, ‘in the moment’ inspiration).
New music vocabulary, different motions around the drums, a style of music recently discovered. These all take time to become natural, to be ‘imprinted’ within oneself. On the other hand, grooves played for years and years, songs heard a thousand times, drum fills that became very natural can all be ‘expressed’ right away, with their specific meaning, proper application. It’s like adding spices to a meal… In doubt, instead of spoiling everything by adding spices that might not fit or by putting too much of some of them, maybe it’s better to cook safe and just add a little bit of salt and pepper !
To conclude, I’d like to say that being conscious of this ‘imprint / express’ co-existing principle is for me a big part of the solution for the removal of stress. When psychological and physical tension goes away, a deeper appreciation of creativity, ‘self- expression’ can take place. This specific state allow us to appreciate and respond to the ‘expression’ coming from our music partners. Let us give to music the time and approach it deserves. It has so many great things to reveal about itself but also it teaches us a lot about ourselves!