Recharge and Reboot: A Musician's Perspective
Music depends on routine. Applied to one of the highest creative activities of humankind that statement feels like sacrilege - or at least it feels like debasing something that seeks to be inspired and ephemeral into the framework of a repetitive exercise. Yet, routine and repetition are the most irreplaceable pillars that must first be in place to enable the musician to negotiate the creative facets of their art. Simply put: to be a musical artist, one must also be prepared to be a musical athlete.
There is the general need to teach our bodies to move with increasing finesse, strength and stamina, and maintain these assets above a certain minimum level (in professional circles this 'minimum level' is an absurdly high one at that!). This can mean the flexibility, coordination and strength of small muscles in the fingers; or the larger muscles such as the upper back. But - all too easily forgotten, or ignored - is that it can mean a general holistic level of fitness of the body.
What I always found strange was that despite the evident interest in exercise and the musician's body (especially Alexander technique, and adapted yoga practices) much of this is geared to specific 'musical' applications: posture of the shoulders, bow hold, removing tension in the arms, breath-control. This is reflected in professional conversations as much as in student research proposals that come to me for supervision.
I have always been surprised that as soon as conversation turns to general holistic fitness there is an aura of taboo. Here, the myths of exercise and the musicians body come thick and fast! Whilst I, of course, agree that being a musician does entails the sacrifices of certain sports - for instance, you won't find me on an ice-skating rink or with a tennis racquet any more - it always surprises me to hear of the deep-rooted (and widespread) fear amongst musicians that being in a fit physical shape will somehow adversely affect our muscular composition and thereby create tension that will destroy the sound we make at our instruments!
This general holistic fitness really comes into its own when musicians break out from their normal routine of what I like to call 'practise-think-perfect-repeat', and take on their 'performance routine' where nerves (adrenaline) and psychological tension mix with other stressors including travel and being away from home.
However, the feat of putting on a big project, such as the 'Voice between Nations' as part of Year of Music UK-Russia - including being involved not just in the solo, collaborative and debut performances coming out of it, but in the project's tiniest details of grant applications, bilingual (and sometimes trilingual) negotiations, its administration and the organisation of multiple venues, hosts, partners and participants - is a routine that involves stress at a level that is utterly incomparable to that of the standard performance routine.
In putting together the jigsaw of a big project like that really reveals to you that level of general holistic fitness like nothing else. For me, that daily routine of all those pre-dawn 20 kilometre runs immediately become evident as an investment into my 'big-project energy bank'.
Getting my trainers and reflector bands back on is my way of saying to my body:
'thank you for supporting me: now recharge and reboot!'
London is still sleeping as I complete my 20km morning run
But, as dawn quietly breaks what can be more breathtaking?