Friday, 7 May 2010

Jazz and Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama; more form, more freedom.

Nice practice this morning, wonder how many blog posts start with that. Just googled 'Blogger nice practice this morning' and it comes up with 12000 results.

I've been working on the Asymmetric sequence all week, sandwiched between Ashtanga Standing and finishing. Friday's I usually do a straight Primary no matter what else I'm up to, this morning I decided to have even more fun.

I play Saxophone, though less now than I used to. Those who don't know jazz often think of it as formless, an improvised sax solo say, as just noise. But when you learn to play jazz, you learn scales, loads and loads of scales, sometimes, strange exotic scales as well as the more obscure classical one (the other way to learn jazz is to listen to hundreds of recordings). You also learn patterns or licks and if you listen to the famous players you will often hear the same little patterns of notes come up time and time again. Guitar players call those riffs.

So pick a song, a melody, learn the chord structure it's related scales. Now strip the melody down to the bare bones such that the fewest number of notes that still give you a hint of the melody and play little patterns of notes from the same scales, the same chords. Elongate the space between the melody notes and chuck in a couple of quick patterns but come back to hit the melody note on time, go all Mingus and play with the time signature, try it by humming a familiar tune, My favourite things perhaps. Now forget the melody and just play the same chords or forget the chords and play over the appropriate modal scale but keep the same rhythm, or change the rhythm but keep the chords, the scales. It can sound a little Dionysian but there's still Apollonian form there, still structure and order.

Listen to Coltrane below pushing the boundaries, it's almost like he's trying to step outside language to express what cannot be said, he fails of course, as we all must 'but he tried goddammit he tried' .

'The Tao that can be said is not the Tao' , Wittgenstein should have been ashamed of himself for writing, 'That which can not be said should be passed over in silence', where would poets be if they listen to Ludwig. If you can say it that ain't it.... but for god sake don't stop trying.

What has this got to do with this mornings practice, well not as much as I wish, clearly I've gotten all excited about jazz and gone off on a tangent. What I wanted to do was substitute Subroutines for patterns, Sequences for styles and explore improvisation in practice.

Style = Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama
Chord Structure = Standing/Bow/Seated/Asymm/Seated/Finishing
Patterns = On one leg subroutines, Salambhasana Subroutines, Kapo subroutine, Dropbacks, part of Janu Sirsasana subroutine, some Marichi's, LBH patterns, Seated angle subroutine, Arm balance riff, inversion sequences.

So I had the basic idea, the form of what I wanted to practice along with some favourite patterns but after that I let it take care of itself, let the connections work themselves out and went with instinct for what felt right, for what my body seemed to want. Changed the tempo, lot of jump backs through the Asymm section but less through Seated. The magical thing is, the more familiar you become with all the different subroutine and sequences from Vinyasa Krama, with how asanas are linked to one another the more freedom you have, it's this the same paradox you have in jazz.

The more form the more freedom.


Clearly this post makes very little sense but it's a hell of an excuse to play some Coltrane. Here he is saying that which cannot be said.... almost.


and here's a nice link to an article on Coltrane and indian music.

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