composition

Beats and Budo

Beats and Budo

Several months ago, one of my fellow iaidoka (AKA, “The Tiny Samurai”) posed a question to Kim Taylor sensei of Sei Do Kai with regards to beats and budo. Taylor sensei shared some of his thoughts here, then made a reference to me (AKA, “The Tinier Samurai”) to try tackling the question.

When I first began my Iai journey in the mid 2000s, I recognized immediately the many shared themes between music and martial arts. Beats and budo, now this is something that I have been grappling with since Day One.

Shining Stars

Week One of the music festivals is nearly over. It's been exhausting driving back and forth from North Calgary to High River to catch students. As soon as I walked into the house, it was back to a full afternoon/evening of teaching and practicing my own songs, soothing ansty parents, pushing stubborn students who are dragging their feet on the exam preparations (and assigning names of students to the influx of white hairs on my head) and collecting registrations for next year. My students who have played so far played as well as expected. Some were still scrambling till the last minute to memorize their songs (which were supposed to be memorized two months ago). Not surprisingly, their performances were wobbly. Some succumbed to nerves, while others fell back to bad habits that I had been trying to break for months.

There were a few shining stars. There's my nine-year old student R who is steady as a rock. Steady progress and steady work habits. She got excellent comments at the festival and a mark just a couple of hairs off Honours with Distinction for her composition. Now, we just have to work at getting her rhythm in trouble spots steady as a rock.

Then there's my little showman S. This 11-year old consistently selects toe tapping songs that get the entire audience engaged in the performance. It also helps that he really gets into whatever song he's playing and flirts with the audience with his sparkling eyes and smile.

The next two are opposites: C is a 15-year old with a really good musical ear. She improvises for hours at home. After months of hounding her to write down her song, she finally did for the festival. She just missed Distinction by a couple of hairs also with her composition.

Finally, 12-year old D. She's been with me since the beginning of my teaching career. She's gone from a quiet and shy girl who only wants to play what's on the page, scared to make a mistake to a performer who impressed the adjudicator with her beautiful improvisations based on a catchy tune.

I just have a handful of students yet to perform. Then, my students and I will tear apart their songs a few more times to work on attaining a higher level of passion and technical precision for the next round of recitals and exams.

May 12, 2007 note: I need to add one more "shining star" to this list. Ten-year old R surprised his parents and myself earlier in the year when he expressed his desire to take his Gr. 5 piano exam in June. Since then, we've been working hard on his songs and technique. Fingering and rhythm have always been a challenge for him (or perhaps it's just the detail work). Prior to his performance last Saturday, I had him tap out his opening rhythm to Christopher Norton's Danger Danger. As I thought, the rhythm was a little off. I corrected the rhythm and had him practice it while I went to give two of my students who were also performing a pep talk.

When this guy is "on" he can draw the audience in. And that morning, R was "on". He nailed that rhythm and delivered the strongest performance in his class. (c) 2007 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.