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How to Learn Musicality (and why it is possible)

It’s been 49 days since my mother’s passing. I was fortunate that I could visit her in the last few months, to have a funeral, that I had weekly prayers to say for her, and that several drawings came to me during these weeks that seemed to speak to her traversal through the bardo to her rebirth–which takes up to 49 days.

The pictures were interesting. When I start a picture (I draw on my phone), I make a random squiggle–whatever comes out of my hand–and then develop and decorate any imagery that suggests itself to me. Over time, I have come to have confidence in just letting things appear to me.

I did not set out to draw anything in particular, but as the designs appeared, they said firmly that they were connected to Frances on her journey. This most recent one came yesterday. When I realized what it was, I took time to add some Buddhist symbols and colors as well. It felt right and important.

Oddly, musicality is like my drawing process.

We open ourselves up to what appears. We let it move us. We decorate and color what comes to us. It’s intuitive, yes. But it’s also a skill. And skills, including intuition, can be learned, improved. It is hard at first, so we may feel we just cannot do it, and quit. But that very difficulty, that feeling of frustration, is a sign of learning. So it behooves us to persevere. To keep going, even when it feels stupid. One day, surprise! Brand new tooth ; ).

When we improvise, we never know what is going to happen next, so we have great freedom. We allow ourselves to notice any sensations, images, and meaning that arise from the music. We allow our bodies to express those things. And we develop the confidence to let our bodies bring the movement to us.

We layer our physical expression of the impressions we get from the melody over our connection to the rhythm–along with any knowledge of genre, music, and rhythm, which may call to mind specific steps and affects. But the basic mix is the timing and the expression. And, of course, confidence in our bodies to be there for us in the moment.

Timing + Expression = Musicality

For example, someone asked in class the other day, how to interpret the rise and fall and phrasing of the singer’s voice. That interpretation is musicality. Here is the recording of my answer.


In the video, I mention that trust we develop in our bodies, the trust that brings confidence in our own intuition–to speak, draw, dance–or know in our bones what feels right and important.

The upcoming Musicality series starts next week. It will be a fun, eclectic class, with lots of opportunity for live practice. More about that is here:
Registration is open.

I look forward to dancing with you!

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