From Expectation To Receptivity: Nothing Happens, Until Something Does

“To give the moment a chance, you don’t give up after three, four or five minutes of playing. You don’t play the peak moment in the first three minutes. You’re trying to record something you want to listen to again, so you move carefully, so you don’t mess it up. Because when you just hit a really bad wrong note, which puts you off, it stops you from getting deeper into the zone. So you’re just getting to a point where you’re not disturbed by your own bad ideas, being very humble.”

Nils Frahm

“A method for studying something always discovers only those possibilities
that spring from a world the method creates.
The perspective defines the phenomenon from the outset.”

– David Sudnow, Talk’s Body, p. 37

There’s this rhythm to my work that I’m getting used to, which is that for what feels like the longest time nothing happens, until something does. I’ll begin with the wholly unreasonable expectation that I should have an interesting sound within a few minutes, and of course that never, ever happens. Instead, I fumble around, debating where to (arbitrarily) begin, then trying to play a chord with a sound, not being impressed with the sound or the chord or both, then trying to find ways out of the impasse. Many minutes go by before I admit to myself that the chords are not only uninteresting, but the way I’ve ordered them paints me into a corner. I’ll repeatedly delete what I’ve done and keep improvising until I have something with potential. 

Is this an impasse though? Maybe it’s a transition between being in a state of expectation to being in a state of receptivity. My looking for ways out is more about staying in the zone long enough for something interesting to transpire. I fumble with the most obvious moves and parameters for altering sound:

Can I pitch this down?

Can I filter it?

Play more notes or fewer?

Typically this fumbling around to stay in the zone will last between 30 min and two hours, and the longer nothing is working the more committed I become to staying the course until something does. The longer nothing is working is proof of time spent trying out possibilities with an ever lowering expectation that anything significant will ever happen.  

During a recent session (which I wrote about) I got to a point of realizing that, on the one hand, my method demands a lot of trust without offering sure returns. Maybe I should try a different, more surefire method for generating fresh sounds? On the other hand, as a means of getting from a state of expectation to a state of receptivity, my method works. It works because something about fumbling around and trying out possibilities with diminished expectations that anything will work almost always sparks an idea.

For what feels like the longest time nothing happens, until something does.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s