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MORE THAN BACKGROUND MUSIC: THE "BOX-IFICATION" OF BLACK AND WHITE THINKING

Updated: 2 days ago



British pianist, composer, and piano teacher Simeon Walker seems to have his head screwed on right. He says that:


"... box-ification of creative practice is the least helpful thing we can do. In general, I believe the one thing the world could do with more of at the moment, is nuance."


Walker is concerned with more than piano technique and compositional fame in the music world. He understands what makes him happy and feel fulfilled, and relates it to striving to live outside of the seductions and fallacies in modern-day social, political, and personal concerns. He sees the connection of the elements of his musical life with everyday life and society's general ills.


Walker cogently talks about binary opposites that compel so many and so much of our lives these days. He says accepting or pursuing the binary choice is un-creative and exhausting, and he argues for embracing nuance instead. Unfortunately, he says, we are "terrible at it." Most of us want easily digestible things and challenges that don't require much concentration. An "either-or" choice makes life simple.


While he doesn't put any blame for a general modern day lack of patience and effort on the advent of social media and the gullible pursuit of momentary fame and "connection" via social media, he clearly implies its role. I'm inclined to outright blame it, but at least Walker does mention "our device-filled existence."


Of course, that is a classist and perhaps even ageist comment by the both of us, although I am still surprised to see the frequent use of cell phones (that I don't find all that inexpensive) by unhoused individuals living in tents on our streets. It also does not recognize that many of us late life seniors came late to the social media and IT dance, resisted for many years if not until today, and don't much like it even after we "arrived."


I'm rather proud to say I resisted the siren call of cell phones until Christmas of 2019 when my partner insisted I accept his gift of one. He convinced me that I could use it for emergencies when traveling by myself internationally the next year. Of course, Covid came about a few months later in March, and my grand travel plans to three European countries went you-know-where, but the cell phone survived and took root in my daily life.


Despite being locked into some immutable and sometimes invisible prisons of categories that clearly privilege me, all I can do is admit those when I recognize them, then act to voice and overcome the intersectionality of discrimination of many kinds.


I applaud Walker's sensible world view, a mature one for one so young as he (to me he is "young" at age 39). I would only expand his caution against "boxification" to include a caution against using all "labels," which I eschew. The dangers lie not just in two extremities, but with many boxifications within the two extremes of boxification.


Any label, while certainly convenient and anxiety-reducing, boxes us in. Sometimes we need them, but not usually. A sister pianist, Sherry Gilette, whom I met in Noa Kageyama's zoom class "Psych Essentials" last month, agrees in general with me:


"I discovered Ann's poem 'Helium' (in the Advance Readers Copy of Vol III 'Poetical Musings') at the perfect time, and as well resonated with her January 24, 2024 website blog ‘The Last Attempt, or The Best?’ on the impact and definition of failure and success in life. I agree: why do those two words need to be defined at all? Attaching labels such as these has caused too many too much pain. Ann's encouragement to move forward with what one loves, gives me hope that I can find strength to bypass the judgment of others."


Binary choices -- and labels -- I hope we can all look beyond them both, to the nuance that Walker urges.

***


The problem with labels is that,

They give rise to judgments at best,

And inherently they include

Hierarchies of bad and good,

Things anathema to me you might know.

But if you don’t, then I’ll show

That those things I just won’t brook,

Nor stop to consider or look,

For freedom I value the most,

Less to me, is nothing but toast.

For if I cannot live free

Then I surely cannot be me,

Nor can you, except in my mind

Where surely you may find

The freedom to be fully you.

But if you’re afraid, in truth,

To go there with boundaries set loose,

Brook anxiety and stress as it comes,

And prevail o’er distractions not fun,

The rewards I promise are many,

Your travails so puny, if any,

And soar as you will in delight,

To the heavens you’ll surely take flight.



THE FIRST

 

Is the first the best?

The very first version of what we play–or our first kiss?

Does refinement tend to grow with practice

and with age?

Does it depend on the stage of life

or the day we try to express our very best?

 

But if the worst?

Must we stand still and stare and wonder

where’s the thrill

and what should come next, we ponder?

Could be the second will be better

if we heave a sigh and try another then another?

Why bother?

Because we can – no lie!

 

Start first to listen deep within,

search for the sound and then

the sweet and light and pure delight, then try again.

You’ll win this time, don’t brook one doubt!

Just move and play

first from within and then out.

Think the notes, think the sound,

a tone hard or round?

Imagine that you travel far beyond a star

and enter into the welcoming black hole of oblivion

and become One,

where all melodies and harmonies begin.


HELIUM (Vol III unpublished)


You want to feel filled with helium

and your foot becomes a tapping fool

beyond your control?

And your body starts to twitch and sway

and the beat lines up with your heart

and you start to float away?

You want to stand up in spite of yourself,

kick up your feet

and sense a smile take over your face?

And you dance about, contain a shout,

and step up the fastest pace?

In these kinds of moments

we become who we're meant to be,

free spirits full of joy and love

and reaching out to share and care

and dissolve into life's groove.

._____

*For inspiration, listen to singer/composer Sammy Rae

and her song "Kick It To Me."

###

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