Sometimes the strangest thoughts hit me when I’m watching musicians play. Last year, I spent an entire Elgar Concerto completely distracted by the cellist’s hair. It was glossy back, perfectly healthy…and flopping around as if he was on a Pantene commercial. At a tiny international club in New York, I was captivated by a hammer dulcimer player who couldn’t keep his feet still. He had this flamingo stomp thing going on, and it was fantastic. Just recently I watched the give and take between the members of Time for Three, and while their music was phenomenal, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the bass player and his crazy faces.
What do all of these things have in common? They remind me of the beauty of one buttock playing. If you haven’t heard this story, here’s a quick recap: There was a young pianist struggling to get through a piece. A famous player told him “The trouble is you’re a two buttock player. You need to be a one buttock player.” He told him to lean forward on one butt cheek and then play the piece again. The pianist was a little skeptical, but considering the older player’s reputation, he tried it anyway. The result? Almost if by magic, the pianist connected with the piece and the music took flight. Instead of just thinking about the music intellectually, he brought his body into it, using his posture to help unlock his passion.
To really get into music, and to really live life to the fullest, you can’t keep both cheeks on the bench. It’s not enough to understand the music intellectually. It’s not fulfilling to just go through the motions and hit the right notes. For things to take flight, you have to let go a bit. Don’t think about every note on the page. Think about the phrase. It’s about vision, and the long line, and the joy of playing. Let your hair flop about, find your flamingo leg, get off that other cheek …your music will take flight.