Sitting and talking to Kelly, my partner in crime in the things I am working on now, he reminded me of the best metaphor for the space and stillness and silence that defines happiness for me. It is the idea that real music, real life, is not defined by the notes we play, but by the space we leave in between. I have followed this idea for years, first hearing it in my studies in sport psychology and like everybody else I credited a sport psychologist for the idea itself. Hardly.
Once aware of this idea, I started seeing it is a universal found from Zen to Art and, of course, to music that I knew from my teen years. In the VH1 show Classic Albums, it came up quite often. From Face Value by Phil Collins were the words of his producer or engineer:
“You don’t feel at anytime that you’re making incredible records that will be remembered twenty years later, but both Phil and I both had this feeling of loving to listen to music that had space in it. We tried very hard to not put too many instruments into the music.”
Or from Roger Waters talking about the making of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon:
“I find myself with instrumentalists over the years working with people very often as a producer having to say to people ‘No, leave a hole, just play for half a bar and leave a bar and a half free.’ And that’s how that song works.”
And David Fricke, Senior Editor Rolling Stone Magazine talking about Pink Floyd:
“The simplicity of the Floyd is very hard to talk about. It was always about leaving space.”
And from Daniel Levitt who wrote the best-selling book Your Brain on Music:
“Miles Davis famously described his improvisational technique as parallel to the way Picasso described use of his canvas. The most critical aspect of the work, both artists said, was not the objects themselves, but the space between objects. In Mile’s case, he described the most important part of his solos as the empty space between notes, the “air” that he placed between one note and the next. Knowing precisely when to hit the next note, and allowing the listener the time to anticipate it, is a hallmark of Davis’s genius.”
And this defines the challenge I think we all face. How do we live between the notes?
For those of you still afraid of the darkness of night, of being alone, of being judged when the music seems to stop, my hope for you is you will remember that space is what makes the song yours. The voice, the con game, tries to steal the stillness, tries to fill the space with guilt, telling you to hurry the notes, to do more, to keep moving, to work harder. The con game is musical chairs, each of us scared to be left without a chair when the music stops.
It is the space between the notes that presents the greatest opportunity for our own promise to rise up, to wonder what gifts lie inside us. It is in the space that we turn those gifts of life into the skills for living.
That’s all it is. Our promise. Our gifts. Our skills. Nature’s promise to us fulfilled only by us.
Wonder, work, rinse, repeat.
Forgive and Remember.
From gifts into skills, from wonder to wellth.
Space, stillness, silence…and the skill to keep it free.
Breathe. The ultimate human space.
And in fulfilling my promise, I will make this promise to you. If you need a reminder to keep the space pure, if you need help remembering your gifts, I will be here going on my own journey. My promise is in that way your promise. That’s what I do.
Here we go. Let’s play. Everyone is invited.