The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten
The Music Lesson, A Spiritual Search for Growth through Music by Victor Wooten #Wooten_ML has become one of my favourite leisure reads. I bought this book last year around the same time, March, and just devoured what it had to say. Before I say more, I 100% recommend this book to any musician/music-loving person. I’ve been wanting to re-read it, sit with what it has to say more deeply, and document where I stand with how I feel about some topics it covers. I might make this a ritual: to re-read this book annually around springtime and revisit my relationship with music every year - it’s too early to say if that’ll happen, but it might be nice to document and track any changes over the years! A bit of a time-capsule diary regarding my own relationship and journey with Music if you will.
For those who don’t know, this book is not a textbook or a musical practice guide, but actually quite a lovely personal story written in first person, in a narrative style, about some lessons about Music that Victor Wooten learned from a unique teacher of his. It’s written like an autobiographical take on the experience that actually doesn’t span too much time in his life, but had made a tremendous impact in his approach to playing Music, not just piano. It revolutionized my approach to playing Music in a time when I was very receptive to its messages as I felt unworthy(?) and unimpressed with my creative (or lack thereof) abilities. (If you’ve read the book, you’ll know why I’m capitalizing Music! It’s characterized as well… a character! A personified phenomenon. A rather interesting take actually! I’ll get into that some other time. #futurepost)
It’s funny how an experience (a song, a movie, or in this case: a book) can create a significant enough checkpoint in your life that re-experiencing it will take you back to that time. Not all experiences do this, but certain special ones do and well… I guess that’s why and how they do it - there’s something special about them! I was in quite a different place when I first read this book in spring of 2021, the most obvious being that I had not yet resigned from my fulltime permanent position as a sound designer. I was definitely feeling the weight of not feeling fulfilled with myself and my work, lacking the feeling of identity as a musician or artist (still a lot of progress to go there!), and overall just burnt out from… life? Ahh, at the incredibly productive age of 24, yes, I was burnt out from a very long life of purpose *ahem sarcasm*. I believe I started taking jazz lessons with my current teacher around this time too and that was an eye-opening moment in my musical education - the world of jazz. I mention all this because I think the state in which a person is in, affects how they perceive content and art, and I think it’s worth documenting and remembering I was in a state where I was certainly needing some hope and consolation, and I was able to find that in this book. And that might not be everyone. Anyway, today in March 2022, I am currently quite freelance, starting to get a small understanding of the granting world in the arts, and I have some creative projects and collaborations in the works and forthcoming that I personally think are pretty exciting! Quite different from 12 months ago. And in those 12 months, I’ve CERTAINLY visited and revisited many of the topics mentioned in this book in my head, and here I am finally starting to document and organize those thoughts into a more comprehensive form: in writing.
I had originally meant for my re-read to have sticky notes that pointed towards good advice that had practical applications I could directly use in my own musical practice. There were certainly some exercises I had been meaning to try, and some that I did! (Like jamming and improvising in real time to recordings of my favourite professionals without needing to first learn and prepare a tune prior.) I\m a few chapters in, and already I have way too many sticky notes to keep track of what I want to say about each sticky note so I’ve decided to document in pieces - a chapter at a time! So… coming up next will be some semi-organized point-form thoughts and musings from my first re-read of all 13 chapters. And I just can’t wait.