A master communicator (and what a shirt!

Some months ago I blogged several times about musicians who don't move a lot when they perform. The subject merits repeated study, so let's look at something fantastic.

These two Brazilian guys here are experts on the art of improvising poetry and songs in public, in the style known as "repentista" in Portuguese. (Repentista comes from the word for "sudden.") They are both masters of the art . . . but the guy on the red shirt is exceedingly poised and well directed. You don't have to understand Portuguese to marvel at his back, his calm, his strength, and his communication skills!

Condensed energy is the name of the game.

How Musicians Can Benefit from the Alexander Technique

Robert Rickover interviewed me for his series Body Learning. Click here to listen to my interview, How Musicians Can Benefit from the Alexander Technique.

Here's how it starts!

Robert Rickover: Pedro could you begin by giving our listeners a short description or definition of the Alexander Technique?

Pedro de Alcantara:
I think the Alexander Technique is a way for you to solve a problem by putting the problem aside and working on yourself instead. Focusing on yourself, centering yourself, calming down, opening up your mind. If you really do all of that, most problems tend to disappear. That's why I titled my first book for musicians INDIRECT PROCEDURES. When you're trying to solve a problem, instead of doing it directly, you go in this indirect way where the problem is less important than your own thoughts and actions. By clarifying your thoughts and actions, the problem could disappear.

One of the best musicians, ever!

I recently watched an installment of the PBS documentary The Blues. One of the musicians featured in it astounded me: the pianist, singer, and comedian Martha Davis, who died at age 42 in 1960. She’s a brilliant performer, in total command of her materials and, more important, of herself. Watch these clips and wonder at her ease, her sense of timing, the latent powers in her playing and her singing, and her wicked sense of humor.

After enjoying these clips for their tremendous entertainment value, watch them again and see what you can learn from Martha Davis in practice. For instance, it seems to me that her poise of head, neck, back, shoulders, and arms plays a role in her mastery (as it does with Art Tatum, Louis Armstrong, and all the other jazz greats I’ve blogged about in recent months).

I also think that Davis has found a perfect balance between “doing things for her own pleasure” and “doing things for the pleasure of her public.” In other words, she cares a lot about her public . . . and she probably doesn’t give a hoot about other people might think of her. Suppose the public really wanted her to push her head back and down into her neck, roll her eyes, and sweat up a storm in a display of “feeling.” Would she do it? I doubt it. She shares her talent with the public in a straightforward and casual manner that is also very generous and touching. But she doesn’t make a show of herself, so to speak. With her, it’s the materials that count—the rhythms, sounds, words, and jokes—and not her emotions about those materials. She’s an extravert but not a narcissist. My theory is that she loves herself without being in love with herself.

All right, enough with the fancy theories. I’m just going to watch her clips again (and again . . . and again!).



Reader Comments (2)

Pedro you site is positively inspirational. I love the Martha Davis Clip - I have seen this before, but was so glad to be reminded of it. Every time I feel a bit bogged down, I explore your site - so full of quality stuff. Thank you

February 14, 2011 | http://crpsmobility.wordpress.com

I'm glad you enjoy my site . . . Davis is quite something. She died young (42) imagine what wonders she'd have produced had she lived longer.

February 15, 2011 | Pedro