I’ve been re-reading Stephen Pressfields book “Going Pro”, and he tells this story about how Rosanne Cash had this disturbing dream about trying to join a conversation with Bonnie Raitt and some guy named Art, and Art dismissed her as a dilettante…
This dream kept haunting Rosanne, and caused her to devote herself to finding her true voice, not just keep coasting along on the relatively easy fame and connections she had in the music world. She started taking voice lessons, and doing a number of things to push herself into a new level of authenticity in her music. She basically decided to stop trying to live up to others expectations, and find her own path, no matter what the cost.
She started writing more of her own songs and began recording a new collection of songs. As she worked on this recording, the producer (will have to find his name later, just need to write now while I have this momentum) asked her a question that I find fascinating and useful: “Where’s the Madness”?
This puts into words one way I have operated over the years to make a song my own. I believe we all (no exceptions) have within us a divine madness. One of my jobs as an educator is to find ways to wake students up to their own unique voice. Where’s the madness?
You can record yourself playing scales, listen to the playback and ask yourself where’s the madness? When your playback starts answering this question with something more than just keeping time and playing the right notes, you are beginning to own the notes you are playing.
The same goes for learning a song. Finding the madness is one way of putting into words capturing a glimpse of the mysterious power of music and aliveness, and expressing even just a hint of it. This has very little to do with technical skill, but when you add it to technical skill it comes alive.
One of the great pleasures of working with people who want to play the harmonica is being present when they come alive. When they find the madness. When they lose inhibitions and play something straight from the heart. Even if it is technically bad, I can feel it.
Perhaps this question will be useful to you. It works for me in my music and really, anything I want to do with a charge of aliveness….
Where’s the madness?