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The beat (pt.1)

I’ve been thinking more about my creative process and trying to build in more intentionality around it. One of the questions I had for myself was: “How do I start my process”? Finding an answer (not “the” answer)to this will hopefully give me more insight into how I can continue to produce work in the way that I want, and also, hopefully, offer you, the reader, some ideas and tools to jump into your creative projects. While my work is typically in the realm of music, I believe many of these ideas can be applied no matter the medium.

When I build a musical composition, I find that I often start with a beat, a rhythm, a pulse, percussion, drums, etc. For me, this is often where movement comes from. It is where a conversation starts. It is where a melody can rest and where harmonies can nestle in and find home. In my view, and my approach, rhythm seems to be fundamental.

Life has rhythm. I had a therapist that encouraged me to think about my life in terms of rhythm. He communicated that how one moves in the world matters. I began to think more about it: was I in time, out of time, in front of the beat(rushing) or behind the beat (dragging)? How many beats per minute (bpm’s) do I want or need my pace in life to be? I found that this concept/practice/way of being in the world can have a strong impact on how I feel. Focussing on my life rhythms and being mindful in this way can alter my thoughts, feelings, and trajectory in life. It also offers a kind of anchor point or way to ground myself.

This my sound a bit abstract, so let me give some practical examples of what I mean. One’s rhythm may be how many things they schedule in a day and/or the types of things they schedule. For example one may find a helpful life rhythm by scheduling two work tasks followed by a recreational activity or physical activity. It may be the way in which they talk, move, or eat. They may find subtle, but meaningful change by adding more silence into the way they communicate, or more words, or changing their speech rhythm.

If I am not honoring the rhythm of life, of my life, then something feels off. It’s a mildly perceptible feeling that, for me, resides as a tightness in my gut, very similar to when I have played with other musicians, and couldn’t quite land on the one (the first beat in a bar). It’s uncomfortable, unsettling, and disconnecting.

Several years ago, when I was studying Dance Movement Therapy, my professor, Dr. Danielle Frankel, discussed the importance of pulse. Pulse being a more fundamental precursor to rhythm. Your heartbeat is a pulse. She connects pulse to groundedness. She would have us step one foot and then the other, staying in place, just finding that steady pulse- one, two, one, two. At times, she noted my difficulty finding a steady pulse. This was a bit hard to hear as a musician, but at that time, my life had many uncertainties, trials, and tumult that definitely impacted my sense of groundedness.

I am not exactly sure how my sense of pulse is residing in me currently, but I suspect it has changed since my days in Dance Movement Therapy classes. I do know that my rhythm has changed. The structural components of my life are significantly different from 13 years ago. I changed my profession thrice, lost both my parents, met an amazing partner, moved several times, etc. I have had to adapt, change, grow, and move differently (literally and figuratively). I think about rhythm differently now- partly due to my intentional efforts in practice (music/dance) but also as a result of organic and contextual components of my life. The beat is woven into everything I do- it is, in the truest sense of the word, integral.

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