Musings of a Multi-Instrumentalist 

That title sounds like I’m bragging. I don’t mean to be. I started out a singer. I became a songwriter. I learned piano out of necessity in order to have something to help me write and, then, to be able to accompany myself when no one else was available to do so. Then…many years later, I became a ‘pianist’. It still shocks me when I hear someone refer to me as one. But, I’m digressing before I’ve even started. Yeah, I play multiple instruments…and that makes me cool. So there. 

I’ve come to the guitar late.  I should’ve done it much sooner. I’ll add that to the rest of the regrets in my Bottle. But, I came to it. Drawn, like a thing that gets drawn into another thing. And, the lesson here is:

Learning another instrument will make you a better musician and, specifically, it will make you more skilled with your primary or other instruments.

I had an experience last night to prove this. I had gone to a folk club to play with one of my bands, ‘The Way Out‘. I sing and, primarily, play piano in this band, although occasionally I play the lyre or spirit flute or percussion with them. I had my stage piano there to do my thing. 

At a folk club, generally it’s a sing around.  People take turns sharing songs and if anyone else in the group can ‘grab a note and hang on’ they’re welcome to do so. 

Also…it’s rare to see a piano at one of these places; most of the folkies play guitar or a stringed instrument of one sort or another (it’s common to see lutes, mandolins, along with the non fretted violins and violas, etc. Piano is a novelty). A woman from the group asked the others in the circle to join her and…instead of struggling to pick out what she was playing on the guitar by ear, I watched her fret hand.

I know those guitar chords now. So, all I had to do was watch her hand and I knew what to play on the piano. It was a serendipitous moment. 

I’ve had guitarists and bass players who know enough about the piano to watch my hands and, therefore, be able to spontaneously play with me in a jam session situation. And now I was doing it in reverse. 

Yeah… that’s cool. 

I’m loving playing guitar. It hurts. It’s difficult. I’m not great. I let my voice cover for mediocre playing…but, thankfully, I can do that. It’s therapy.  It’s rather magical. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in years…for many reasons. 

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My Brain Hertz (or Musician, Heal Thyself, Part Deux)

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So, this post has two main focuses. One is to introduce you to my newest instrument acquisition and latest addition to my music making and music therapy. Meet Maimie. She’s a 10 string lyre harp. I waited quite a while for her am very pleased to have her home. She arrived on Monday and we have been making music together ever since; I’m enjoying her greatly.

While you may be happy for me finally getting a harp, it’s most likely the second point of this post that will hold much of an interest: I’ve begun experimenting with binaural beats. I have to say, I’ve noticed a difference with my ability concentrate and be alert; it’s also helping with meditation and sleeping, too.

I won’t go into an explanation of what they are here; do a Google search on binaural beats and all the info you need comes up.

I’d love to say that binaural beats are totally sorting my brain out, but that isn’t the case. I’m still spending most of my days in bed, avoiding going out/people as much as possible most of the time and would easily choose death over life, but the little improvement in simple things like focusing better on what I’m reading or watching and being able to get a more decent rest is something worth blogging about.

I recommend an app called “Relax Melodies”. Pay for the full version; it’s worth it – you’ll get all the beats to take your brain on a journey of different, helpful states.

Back to Maimie the harp, she’s the kind of thing that I would have shared with the musical friend I have mentioned in previous posts…the one that I don’t have anymore. I’ve thought a lot about her since getting Maimie, and missing…well, missing the experience I would’ve had in the sharing.

In other news, I’ve been getting together with another musical friend (one I still have, but very different to the one I lost) to work on some stuff and we may just do something with said stuff, be an acoustic duo, perform together. We’re in the early stages. I’ll keep you posted. Ha, posted… yeah, ok, I’m going now.

Music is Therapy. Always.

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The school run rarely runs (no pun intended) smoothly. I struggled, per usual, but I got them there and got myself back to the safe confines of the four walls I live in (I’d have said “my house”, but it’s rented and our financial situation is never going to allow us to own a house…so).

Things with my health have been deteriorating. Go back to the doctor, I hear you say. I’m tired of that. I’ve tried to get better, and just get worse.

I’ve withdrawn. Even more. I avoid Facebook, with the exception of my artist’s page. It’s another outlet. I keep it for that reason; it certainly isn’t good for much else (like promoting my music, which was its original intention).

Facebook. Ugh. Society in general, ugh. But, Facebook? Let’s put all neuroses in a Petri dish, why don’t we? The never ending stream (feed…yeah, and I’m fed up) of depressing human existence. Updates about food and who’s watching what on the telly. And the endless competition for who has the best (and worst) of life’s experiences goes on. It’s fucking overwhelming.

Oh, but you will accuse me of being negative…all the while, the whisper you ignore in the back of your head agrees with me, knows I’m right.

It may surprise you to find out this post is not a rant about Facebook. Where was I?… oh, yeah, the school run was done and I was safe inside the four walls.

After a glass of chocolate milk (with added vitamins), I found myself in front of my piano (it IS mine…not rented, all mine). I couldn’t remember the last time I had played it. I felt I should do something about it. Music is therapy. Always.

I cleared the pile of stuff (clothes, kids’ toys, who knows what else) off the bench. I sat. There was a song I had written (scribbled) in front of me. I played and sang it. My voice is rusty. But, the piano welcomed me like the true friend it is. We touched each other…that’s what musicians and their instruments do. It’s a very intimate thing and surely sounds freaky and pervy to non-musos. Freaky and pervy I can be accused of (I digress), but the relationship between musician and instrument is sacred.

It’s like any other relationship. We let each other down. We please each other when we can. It’s very give and take…on both sides.

After the scribbled song, I played and sang an old favourite. Then, I let the piano play me for a while. Give. Take.

I feel just as wretched and ill as before I sat down, but I feel a little less frazzled; I feel comforted.

Music is therapy. Always.

What’s next? I don’t know. Take it a day at a time. Do what I can…let go what I can’t. And, perhaps, try to play daily, even if only a minute or two. Yeah…it’s a plan.

A Moment of Silence

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One of those days when it’s all getting to me… and that always amplifies my angst at the shittiness of people not giving a shit and my frustration at the ughness of life.

Well, read the tagline… it is a blog about rants, after all.  I am attempting to live in the present and develop a more positive outlook… through mindfulness meditation I am cultivating awareness, and it is helping. But, in all honesty, I do ride the line of hope and hopelessness. I have moments when I experience a small taste of freedom. Moments of silence, as an observer; moments of not being caught up in my thoughts and the feeling of helplessness and the… the lifeyness of it all and the unfairness of talent going unappreciated, the lack of a caring audience, the inability to do something to support myself and my family through my gift, the agitation and anger at my mental health (or lack thereof and the limitations it causes).  Oh, but…on a sideline, speaking of an audience, I do want to say “hello” and “thank you” to the new followers of the blog I have recently acquired. And, then, there are these other moments of silence. Grieving the dead dream, along with my own longing for death… a deep sadness that creeps around the edges and stains the present old-photograph-yellow. Awareness gets swallowed up in reverie and rumination and the silence is filled with a scream of anguish about…well, about all those above mentioned things and more.

It’s just a moment. 

Only a moment. I won’t stop playing and making music for long. It feeds my soul and even though I can’t “make a living” from it, it is my life. My therapy and expression and, as I said here, I do want to make beautiful things whether or not anybody cares.  No matter what Don McLean wrote, there has never been a day when the music has died. Music lives and is powerful medicine. Dreams die. Musicians die. But music? It’s eternal. And so…

I’ll have my moments (now and then) for grieving the dream, but I will never stop making the music. And, I will also continue to take time for moments of silence where I go beyond the despair of life to experience a level of…something close to enjoyment of the present. Until I, at last, get to finally join my dead dream in rest.

Won’t you join me in a moment of silence?

 

 

Have I Ever?!

Life is nothing if not amusing at times.  I haven’t participated in a Daily Prompt in…well, I don’t rightly recall the last time.  I was on my way back to bed (not feeling close to well today) when the thought occured to me, “If the Daily Prompt has something to do with making music, I will post.”  And, lo and behold.  I had to laugh out loud when I read today’s Daily Prompt in my email, We Got the Beat, which asks (and instructs), “Have you ever played in a band? Tell us all about that experience of making music with friends.”

I won’t point out the obvious (oh, ok, I will…some people don’t know me from a hole in the ground, so… I’m a singer/songwriter and I have been off and on, throughout my life, a professional vocalist (professional simply means getting paid for what you do) since the age of 4). One could say I was born into a band.

Singer/Songwriter Autumn Dawn Leader at age 6

Singer/Songwriter Autumn Dawn Leader at age 6

Daughter of a professional vocalist and musician, as soon as I showed both the ability and the passion to sing, my mother “signed me up” to sing with her, lending harmonies, or taking the lead so she could do the harmonies.  She directed various choirs and choral groups, and I often lended a strong voice to these, as well.  I was in a variety of the trio groups she put together. Harmony is fun (one of the reasons I love to do my own backing vocals on recordings) and, as much as I like the spotlight and solo work, a good vocal group can be what I call a good time. Of all the people I have made music with, I probably enjoyed making it with my mother the most.  An ocean separates us now, so we don’t get to work together. I miss it.

The Chairs

When I moved to the UK, I managed to get a solo gig – a one off which didn’t amount to any more jobs.  So, I got a day job and did the nine to five where I met a computer tech who also played bass in two bands, one of which was losing their lead vocalist due to wanting to go solo.  I auditioned for them. I got the job (all of this one could read in my bio on my website…hint, hint).  I sang with The Chairs for nearly 2 years until the break up of the band (we lost our drummer and the keyboardist who started the band was getting bored, I think).  I enjoyed working with such excellent musicians and I was sad when my time with The Chairs ended. But, I’m still in touch with Ivor, the bassist, and we catch up and play together from time to time. It’s always a joy.

Making music with Bob…

Making music together is an intimate thing. Music is powerful. It’s more of a spiritual force – it transends the natural and temporary. Music belongs to the soul, belongs to the eternal. It can forge bonds…. and I get attached.  Of recent times I have played and sang in both a folk/acoustic band and a worship band with a couple of people that I miss very much now that – due to life and illness and the illness of life taking weird and agonising turns – I am no longer playing with.  This is a sadness. Attachment is dangerous. Playing in a band can teach you this. Painfully, but you learn the lesson.

I figure that before I leave this plane of existence I will play with others (oh, yeah, that’s another thing… musicians love the inuendo) once more.  But, right now, I am solo… making music, on my own. I make it because I am it. I was born into it. I was born of it… I make it because I’m made of it. I believe in it.  It’s more than what I do (but it is the only marketable thing I can do); it is who I am. I am the band.