Written by Stephen Brivati
Published: September 21, 2006 at 11:23 PM [UTC]
I am very lucky to have studied with some of the best teachers alive today so I am fairly familiar with some of the complexities and vagaries of what should really be a very simple thing. Alas the simple things in life are almost always the most difficult to get a handle on.
(For me that is women, alcohol, computers, and spell checkers. For women presumably it is men, men’s idiocy’s, the stupid things men do and the problems men create).
One of the first problems one encounters with AT is finding a definition. I have attended classes for advanced trainees in which the senior teacher asked the students point blank to explain what they are teaching in a way that would be to the point and be relevant to a casual conversation. Another way I suppose of saying summarizes it accurately in a sentence or two. Have never seen many flummoxed people in one room for yonks.
Typically a good teacher will define AT as they see it for the participants in training weekends so here are a few I have come across to give you an idea of the diversity.
1) AT is about saving energy.
2) If you put all the titles of Alexander’s books in order you get a sentence (parargraph) which defines it beautifully. Can’t remember off hand but it has a lot to do with the reclamation and conscious control of our natural inheritance etc.
3) Teacher ) I teach movement.
Student) But, what about thinking?
Teacher) Thinking is movement.
At a later stage one gets to see the oneness of all these answers but for the novice searching for a way forward it is not so easy. However, my main teacher once said to me that whatever else was happening, however involved and complex the learning of the technique becomes one always goes back to the central and overriding concept: primary control. So, if you understand primary control you are well on the way to letting AT help you reclaim your right to live comfortably and use your body well.
(The question of using your body well is one that constantly shocks and even frightens me. As I trained and began observing the world it seemed to me that I never saw anyone using there body well, as in how a baby or cat uses the body. I once raised this point with my teacher `Have you ever seen -anyone- use there body well in normal everyday life?` `No. Never.`)
Anyway, this primary control thingy. It is the relationship between head, neck and back. There is nothing more and we have to consciously explore this. Question is , how?
Well, there is this movie by Bruce Willis which I used to like getting drunk with called `Sixth Sense.` The problem is they got the wrong one. The loony one with spooks in is the 7th. Number 6 is out kinesthetic sense. What is it? Put your hand above your head. Do you know where your hand is? That is your sixth sense, knowing what your body is doing. And the bottom line is that for perhaps all of us in the modern world we have very little idea of what our body is actually doing, and as violinists we need to know. I will explore this in my next blog.
I'm very excited to read the next blog on AT!
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