‘Rock n’ Reel’ magazine reviews ‘Dangerous Loving’ – 4 stars!

”Smoke-fuelled and chameleon-like, tortured and released, Faye Patton exudes forgotten Jazz. Articulating and punctuating her vocal authority with her independent piano playing, this is a supreme effort of both freeform and choreographed musicianship. Definitely in the jazz pigeonhole, there are elements of highbrow funk in ‘Ripped and Torn’, boogie woogie musical theatre throughout ‘Susan Says’ and lounge blues with ‘A Game’; and more in between.

The beauty with these overlapping and contrasting styles is that there is no great leap from one track to the next and she makes herself an effective gatekeeper to the concept of the album as a whole. With flute, cello, trumpet and even flugelhorn joining the tales of lost love and, well, more lost love, the songs manage to stay intimate and retain the emphasis on her boundless vocal.” (Gareth Hayes – Rock n’ Reel magazine May 2012)

 


 

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A Woman’s Worth…

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(The picture is of Norma Jean Wofford, also known as ‘The Duchess’ – lead guitarist with Bo Diddley from ’62-’66. She doesn’t appear in the book I’m talking about here, but this image goes very well with my blog post title. There were dozens of artists that I could have envisaged in the project. Would I like to see Giving Birth to Sound volume II and III and beyond? Yes.  Also a CD compilation and a dedicated music festival? You bet. I’m dreaming big…)

This post is about the worth and significance of musicians – female ones in particular – our capacity as story-tellers, mediums, healers, visionaries, agitators, collaborators entertainers and communicators. Every week, I am still riding the wave of momentum generated by ‘Giving Birth To Sound’ – the new book by Cologne jazz publisher Buddy’s Knife. With a foreword by legendary jazz pianist Amina Claudine Myers and featuring 48 female musicians – including myself. Over a year ago, I was approached by the editor, Renate da Rin. Would I like to be interviewed for a book about female musicians in jazz and creative music? I was up for it of course, and now suddenly the book has arrived and it’s an absolute dream. I am honoured and happy to be sitting side by side with some of my influences and industry legends. A rich collection of personal histories and records of incredible achievement. The contributions have all been translated into English but each artist tells of a very personal relationship to sound, with a diverse range of nationalities, cultures, languages and instrumentation.

All the artists in the book are receiving our copies at different times and reading the final creation at different paces. Needless to say, with a sense of unfolding wonder and high hopes for further contact and projects. This feels unstoppable! For my part, I feel determined to draw attention to what has been achieved here and why it’s important. Despite distinct differences in age, race, language, education and geography, attitude to music, society and concepts of ‘womanhood’, there are common themes amongst the participants – which speak volumes about the times we are living in. An awareness of injustice, a recognition of global inequality and an economic climate where poverty is being demonised and money worshipped, the natural world being destroyed. A recognition that things are in some ways worse not better. A proud, fearless independence, but love of collaboration. An almost mystical, ecstatic reverie that comes from the creative process. Early exposure not just to musical stimulus, but to the worlds of the imagination. A generous passion and hope for the music above all – often expressed in words that are non-linear, poetic, idiomatic and rhapsodic. The book actually reads like a piece of music itself.

Women and girls have been told so many times that we can’t do stuff – either that we’re weak, incompetent and decorative … or in other periods of history and geography, that we are only good for sex, childcare, menial labour and social scapegoating, physical/emotional punchbags, with no access to self-improvement. I don’t say that lightly. In some areas, women have lower status than a domestic animal. Though happily, neither extreme is my own personal experience – the reality of worldwide abuse of women and girls is now so widely known about, that the concept of  female emancipation can no longer be ridiculed as some special interest feminist minority issue. It’s affecting the gender which is actually the majority. So it brings me joy when I see initiatives that really celebrate women. Our stories need to be heard. Some of them are shocking.

 (Here’s what I wrote to the editors:)

”The more I read of the book, the more I am blown away, with love and inspiration, heart quakes and shakes, tears of solidarity and empathy and also a fair bit of socio-political outrage. Today, reading the story of the musician who was accused as a child of being a liar – (TWICE) as her work was so advanced they didn’t believe it was hers… (this happened to me at school, with a play I wrote.)”  * I remember too, after a performance at the Isle of Wight Jazz festival, being approached by the (drunk) director of another prominent UK jazz festival. He accused me of not being the author of my own songs, which he threatened to  research and expose as classic standards which I had in fact plagiarised. Talk about a compliment and insult at the same time. I later received an apology …

 (I also wrote this to the editors:)

”I have to say, a book, (so much more than just a ‘book’) of this nature could not have happened at this time in the UK. We’re beset here with a governmental drive towards austerity that is unbelievable. But there are valiant pockets of rebellion and creativity resourcefulness, generosity and people-power all the more amazing, as we are operating against the odds here. A common theme amongst some of the contributors seems to be the increasing punishment of the poor and of poverty by government and media, affecting all artists – so maybe this economic trend is worldwide. BUT I am so thankful to you creative jazz loving folks at Buddys Knife – for your intellectual courage, determination and artistic integrity in doing this project.
Each one of these 48 contributors is not just a musical creator, but leader, visionary and dare I say it – shaman/sorcerer/witch/wizard/world-bridger and changer of epic proportions. Each with her own networks of international creativity. There are some global possibilities here. As with all creations – a mixture of strong desire/intent and a trust and ALLOWING… the inevitability and momentum of dreams coming to fruit : ) Thinking big. Loving large. Powering the imagination. Women are rising again.”

Here is the intro on the back cover, which says it beautifully. Here’s why you need to read this book! Please order it and buy copies for your friends, libraries, schools, jazz cafes. By doing so you will be helping to support the next stage of our journey – you too will be ‘giving birth to sound!’

”Giving Birth to Sound is about Her-story as told by some of the most brilliant and creative women musicians in the world. Individual thinkers and movers who have been brave enough to devote their lives to the making of music the way they hear it. They were not afraid to sing and speak in the name of sound, showing us that they are a family of unique individuals, separate but united. Read their words and listen to their music whenever you can – it will take you even closer to the great mystery called life.”
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   How to buy the book:
   http://www.buddysknife.de/our-titles/
   info@buddysknife.de
   Available on amazon.com and amazon.de.
Thank you for reading!

 

 

 

What’s going on, America?

Demonstrators march in New York, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All rally and march. In the past three weeks, grand juries have decided not to indict officers in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York and the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The decisions have unleashed demonstrations and questions about police conduct and whether local prosecutors are the best choice for investigating police. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Demonstrators march in New York, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All rally and march. In the past three weeks, grand juries have decided not to indict officers in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York and the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The decisions have unleashed demonstrations and questions about police conduct and whether local prosecutors are the best choice for investigating police. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

What’s going on?

”Ain’t no new thing” … Gil Scott Heron might reply…

I’ve been awake at night quite a bit thinking about this. I watched the clip of Sandra Blands arrest and then of her mother speaking. Then I wanted to say something on social media, then realised it would take up too much space for a brief Facebook post. The ‘United States’. Undoubtedly and always a global hotspot of karmic chickens coming home to roost – but since August of last year, we are now witnessing an epidemic of racist police brutality that defies belief. I would go as far as to say that it’s a global tragedy. A planetary emergency. I would also propose that there’s something about it that borders on demonic. I have no wish to list or re-post any of the dozens of extremely disturbing candid clips, usually taken on civilian iPhones, of US police brutalising black citizens, including children. Every day there’s a new clip, a new report, a new cluster of ‘accidental’ deaths in custody, a new variation on the choke hold, the taser, the broken ribs/suffocation, the shoot-to-kill. I have watched a lot and am shocked and jittery every time and don’t want to ever stop being shocked and jittery, sad and worried and nauseated and distracted because I believe that’s the reasonable human response. The combination of 24 hours social media and on the spot amateur footage means we know more and faster – so is it worse than ever, or just looks that way?

There are calls for justice within America that are heroic, often poetic and artistic, dare I say it, shamanic in scope and courage. Brave and visionary, especially as just like in the ’60s, it’s becoming risky to be identified as an activist and I think this is why Sandra Bland was targeted for supposed ‘traffic infringements’. Since the shooting of Michael Brown, I’ve seen some incredible footage of flashmob style street opera,  peaceful spoken word protest outside police stations and an amateur video (which I will never forget) of a man praying/singing out loud, calling for help from the spirits and ancestors, even as the police electrocute him with a taser having wrongly apprehended and harrassed him, clearly out of their depth and presumably having run out of ideas. The citizen patiently and firmly reminds the police. ‘You don’t own me.’ The gap in intelligence between persecutor and captive is astounding. Ironically, the force of the taser knocks him out of the police grasp and he runs away. Also, there are also numerous black entertainers and celebrities, who are bringing their influence to bear by funding and supporting protest and by pressuring Barack Obama to step up. (If ever there was a time, now would be it…)

If America was a dysfunctional family member, (which arguably it is, special relationship and all…) common sense would surely now call for some sort of compassionate but very firm INTERVENTION. The UK has a unique responsibility in this matter. Therefore, where is the mainstream movement in this country? If you’re reading this and have any information I would seriously like to know if I have missed something. I realise there are petitions going around, grassroots activities, the Ferguson solidarity tour which came to Tottenham and Brixton last year, and many artists and jazz musicians, commentators and activists some of whom I know – who are doing good work – drawing attention to this and saying that it’s UNACCEPTABLE.  I’m not talking about any of that though. The bohemian, artistic community has limited power, time, energy and social leverage – struggling as many of us are to make any kind of living. What I mean is this – I want to see some comment and response from the mainstream UK establishment figures that actually have real power and influence. Again please tell me if I missed something…

Seriously… did I miss the plethora of UK pop entertainers at Glastonbury who used the power of the mic and mass media coverage to read out names of those murdered by the police? Or to call for some seriously sober 1 minute silences? Was it unreasonable to expect this at Wimbledon perhaps? Have I yet to be enlightened by mainstream UK actors or film/TV/music/sports celebrities – who are now boycotting the USA, refusing to tour or work there for example, until they sort the racism out? Where are the voices from white people in this country who need to be saying something? Again, people of at least some power and influence. White people need to be speaking to white people both here and in the US to extend firm alternative re-education and information to those who think they might want to join the law enforcement in order to express their racist brutality tendencies. (This needs to happen in the UK too, as we have our own horrible history of institutional racism – just fewer guns.) Some of these white cops responsible for racist violence, I consider to be mentally, spiritually and ideologically diseased. Individual expressions of a system based on arrogance and ignorance. Racism is a kind of mental illness/disconnection. It needs to be isolated and healed. And it’s not a ‘black’ issue – it’s clearly a white one.

America. Amerikkka. Land of the free. God bless America. Goddess help America. Turtle Island. A huge, beautiful and magical natural resource. Stolen, occupied land based on the deception and slaughter of its original people. Wealth and power built on the  kidnap, torture, rape, enslavement, brainwashing of African fellow humans. I have a book, ‘Iroquois Supernatural’ – about the diverse confederation of the Iroquois nations – whose territories, and later burial grounds constitute vast areas of upstate New York. And that’s just a fragment of the devastation. Anyone who has read ‘Roots’ or ‘Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee’ knows that the First Nations genocide and the slave trade ran side for side for generations. The legacy, literally the blood, still flows through the land with oppression continuing in modern form to this day.  From this history of abuse, what should we expect by now but a(nother) crisis point? How can we extend healing and cleansing?

I started this blog originally to highlight the work of the council of 13 indigenous Grandmothers. They have a prophecy which says that the global domination that is America, will be solved by America, from the enlightened, progressive agencies within, who can press for change. They also speak of the ‘eagle’ of the North, healing/harmonising/combining with the ‘condor’ of the South. This might mean a resurgence of traditional shamanic wisdom and a fearless move from powerful Americans of all races with a social conscience, to heal and transform the system. I hope so.

Thank you for reading.


Resources:

”A Taste of Power – A Black Womans Story” by Elaine Brown  The fascinating story of activist, musician and Black Panther – Elaine Brown.

Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers – 13  wise elders and custodians of indigenous knowledge.

Dream ways of the Iroquois” by Robert Moss.

Sergio Magana – Mexican lucid dream teacher. Healing dreamwork modalities from the ancient Toltec traditions.

Iroquois Supernatural: Talking Animals and Medicine People” by Michael Bastine and Mason Winfield.

The 5th Sacred Thing” by Starhawk – classic 1993 novel –  a blueprint for revolution.

South Dakota Exposed. – The Lakota Peoples Law Project reveals state operated psychiatric profiling and removal of Lakota children from homes and families into foster care.


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Giving Birth To Sound

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This month I am pleased and proud to announce that I am featured in this amazing book, Giving Birth To Sound. Created by specialist Cologne jazz publisher Buddys Knife and a host of contributors working in the field of music – not just jazz, but uniquely personal interpretations of jazz, improvisation and creative sound. The line-up includes some major artists of the 20th century, some of which have influenced and inspired me greatly. What an honour – and I can’t wait to see what happens next! Here is some background from the website:

”Renate Da Rin and William Parker have invited 48 creative women sound artists to share their experiences in the process of creating music and living as an artist. These women come from North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.”giving birth to sound” is about Her-story as told by some of the most brilliant and creative women musicians in the world. Individual thinkers and movers who have been brave enough to devote their lives to the making of music the way they hear it. They were not afraid to sing and speak in the name of sound, showing us that they are a family of unique individuals, separate but united.

Read their words and listen to their music whenever you can – it will take you even closer to the great mystery called life. Foreword by Amina Claudine Myers.

Among the great musicians we find Jay Clayton, Marilyn Crispell, Claudine François, Terry Jenoure, Joëlle Léandre, Marilyn Mazur, Nicole Mitchell, Maggie Nicols, Angelika Niescier, Lisa Sokolov, Ijeoma Chinue Thomas, Fay Victor, Jessica Williams … ”

Excited? Like a copy of the book? CLICK HERE  to order.

 


 

 

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On being a lone wolf ‘jazz monk’

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I am a hermit crab, beavering away in my burrow. A solitary squirrel sequestered with my plans and lonesome longings in a mystical, maniacal, animal monologue of mixed metaphor.

I get quite few joke names, which include things monk and hermit related.

Beset with the guilt, the grandeur, the hauteur – that I ought not to be … an auteur.

Can’t help it. Anyone else out there with lone wolf syndrome?

New service based entrepreneurial models tell us now that business, creativity, society is all about connectedness – the ‘we’ not the ‘I’. And the new spiritual paradigm, likewise. Social media platforms now join us together 24 hours a day. There’s a pressure to get out there and network – fill the diary with at least one ‘out there on the scene’ social thing per week.

I’m trying. I look from the very pretty, but seemingly dead and self-regarding pixels of my smooth running technology and gaze outwards and upwards at the sky. The multi-hued data of nature…the wild wind, the raw information of the elements, insects, birds and flowers – all speak more loudly to me than my social engagements and responsibilities. Nature speaks in non-verbal, non-linear blocks of light and shadow, silence, sound and memory, signature scent and rhythm. Repairing brain cells that I lost through gazing at the computer screen or tirelessly tapping out tedious tendrils of text. Minds more patient than my own have made perceptive, peaceful and functional parallels between technology and spirituality. In every sense we have reached peak information saturation that requires of us something more intelligent than previously. As departed writer and psychedelic adventure Terence McKenna noted, this expanding endless ‘novelty producing’ universe has reached warp speed where a quantum leap through hyper dimensions, as hyper-humans, is the only next step. I sense a split – some beings and places are already there – others have fallen into stasis, atrophy and living death. There is pain and a pulling sensation.

Whatever, I’m pretty sure that the internal quest for self-knowledge, the mythical inner journey through the souls terrain, is not via the technology of computer networks, or even actual social engagement, but through the older, more organic spiritualities of lucid dreaming, sleep, silence, reflection – contemplation and co-operation with the balance of time and the natural world, of death, birth, renewal, decay and transformation. For me, this means periodically enjoying the almost forbidden pleasure of allowing my phone batteries to die in the middle of nowhere leaving me, temporarily and genuinely – unreachable. For those in the know, I often joke, I can be reached more quickly on the telepathic frequencies – and I reckon this is one of the skills we should be (re) developing. This requires quantities of time, alone, listening, watching, catching the wisps and impressions that blow across the still waters of the mind. It’s a state of active receptivity that sends many people into a panic and which they’d rather fill with chatter.

It’s an age-old dilemma for performers and entertainers who are also solo flyers and contemplatives who find it difficult to breathe in crowds and who tend to prefer the silent, but instructive company of beetles. I suppose it is this magical and necessary cusp that is my material. The artists job is to bridge the gap between the twilight worlds of image and association and the broad daylight of ‘everyday’ consciousness. This is how we heal ourselves and others. I’ve heard that wolves, though misconceived of as ‘loners’, are in fact very social and communal. It’s all about the balance.  Let us all honour our own methods and rhythms for navigating our creative seasons.

 


 

 

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Core Strength for Singers and Musicians.


 

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Abdominal strength. Why is it so important for singers and instrumentalists?

I use a selection of ‘for the core’ exercises when I teach singing, and am always amazed at how many people aren’t used to connecting here – and the revelations that come when they do. Vocalists, if you want to make that long note something extra special, it’s the corsetry of your abdomen that’s going to make the difference. Your vital capacity, (the extent that you can hold your breath) will fuel it – but the layers of the abdomen (including but not restricted to the diaphragm) will support the breath and will also keep you standing rooted but tall, anchoring your whole body as you sing. I think of the voice as a divine instrument – it’s like lightning coursing down to earth – energetically, metaphorically and physically. You need to be as stable as possible when this power pays you a visit and to be the best lightning rod you can be.

I don’t necessarily advocate stomach workouts for the sake of vanity, bombarded as we are with unrealistic fashion images that can be very harmful to self-worth, (especially for women) if taken too seriously. Very few people have the kind of washboard torso glamourised by popular magazine culture. But if you do take some time to get to know your abs, you will certainly have a stronger back – great if you have to wear a guitar or bass, or sit upright at a piano, or carry heavy gear.

The internet is full of information, so this post is not supposed to be a comprehensive index or a definitive ‘how-to’ manual, just some pointers that I find useful as a musician (and martial artist) who likes to function at my optimum strength and fitness.

About Pilates. Joseph Pilates was a German bodywork pioneer who, according to accounts, discovered that his could rebuild his body, after prolonged illness, by using his core to lift his own body weight. He came from parents who were involved in alternative and progressive healing modalities, at a time when many holistic explorations of mind and body were becoming more popular. ‘Controlology’ is a term associated with his work. As a German stranded in the UK during the war, he used the time to hone his methods. ‘Pilates’ as a method works the deep core layers of muscle – rather than the surface six-pack (rectus abdominus) that most of us find so impressive, but are unlikely to have.

Some of what I’ve found useful is based on Pilates, but I don’t think anyone needs to pay loads of money for classes. At the risk of upsetting Pilates teachers, I would say that a decent book or video will do, then explore it for yourself at home. (Also have a look at those who have reframed the principles to create their own workouts, such as tennis player Martina Navratilova and ballerina Darcey Bussell.)

The most important thing to get right, is that before you attempt any of the exercises, your entire abdomen must be fully engaged. This is a workout in itself and will yield results. Then that state of tension must be maintained throughout all the lifting exercises. This creates the necessary resistance that works the muscles. This is the key. The more slowly and consciously you can work, the better. I don’t recommend any special breathing counts, just breath deeply and evenly. Some people will disagree with me on this and other content.

(*Always work within your limits and fee free to explore other opinions and methods.)

Here Goes: 

1. Lie on your back comfortably with feet on ground and legs at a 90 degree angle. Engage abdomen. Place cushion between knees and squeeze to keep it there. Lift pelvis completely off the ground in one movement. Raise arms above head. Slowly lower pelvis. Slowly lower arms. Feel the sensation as the torso lengthens. Works the upper abs. Do 10 very slow reps if you can. Breathe evenly. Simple but deceptively effective. You’ll feel it the next day.

2.  Lie on back as above with feet on ground and legs bent at 90 degree. Engage abdomen. Then lift legs into air so they are parallel with ground. Lift up shoulders and back and crunch. In this position lift your arms, palms down a few inches from the floor and ‘beat’ them gently up and down. Breathe evenly. Feel the resistance in the upper abdomen.

3. ‘The Roll.’ Lie flat on the ground. Engage abdomen. Visualise your navel touching your spine and try to flatten yourself against the floor. Maintain this throughout. Point toes. Extend arms above head. Breathe in and raise arms, fingertips to sky at 90 degree angle. Breath out and slowly roll up all the way, flex toes and touch them. Roll back in same way very slowly. 10 slow reps if you can.

4. The ‘Sally Gunnell’. I can’t remember where I read this but this is a great one from an athlete who knows what she’s talking about. Lie flat on ground. Legs bent at 90 degree angle. Engage abdomen. Arms supporting head. Roll up in classic crunch movement, in 3 distinct stages – the upper abs, then mid, then a full crunch. Reverse steps very slowly and consciously. 20 slow reps if you can.

5. Lie on ground with legs at 90 angle. Engage abdomen. Then lay both legs to the side but still be facing up. Feeling the stretch this creates on the upper abs. Arms behind head. Lift upper body up the sky. Not rolling or crunching, but UP. Works upper and transverse muscles. 20-50 reps each side. 100 once you get strong enough.

6. Lie on back with legs straight as you can pointing to the ceiling. Engage abdomen and flatten your spine against the floor. Arms behind head. Lift upper body off the ground, not rolling but UP. 20-50 reps. 100 once you get strong enough.

7. Lie flat on ground. Legs at 90 degree angle. Engage abdomen. Hook one leg over the other. Arms behind head. Lift and twist whole upper body aiming to touch opposite knee. Works transverse and upper abs.

8. Lie flat on ground. Engage abdomen. Place hands under buttocks, palms down. Curl upper body and remain crunched while looking at feet. Lift legs, keep them straight and pointed. Lift up and down in smooth, controlled movements. Do between 10-100 reps, as you get stronger. Works lower abs. Very intense. Not great for beginners – but one to work up to gradually. The upper abs first need to be strong enough to curl properly, otherwise the neck starts to strain.

9. Begin this as above. When engaged and curled up with upper abdomen, lift legs as a unit about 12 inches off the ground. Cross and uncross legs at the ankles. Between 10-100 reps. variation: lift legs as a unit and rotate clockwise, counterclockwise, then in opposing circles. Smooth, controlled movements. Advanced.

10. Whole core exercise. Sit cross-legged. Engage abdomen. Then stretch out legs in front of you. Reach with arms towards toes in an almost balletic gesture. Then lower yourself  slowly backwards and to the side, all the way down to the ground. Roll shoulders across ground and rise up in smooth controlled movement on other side back up to sitting position. Then reverse or as a variation can go in circles one direction. Must be very smooth, slow and controlled. Very intense and almost meditational. Takes 100 % abdominal engagement, deep breathing and mental focus.

As you go through your daily life, notice how your abdomen is one of those key areas, (unlike the bicep or tricep) which doesn’t need an opposing lever system to work. You can simply command it. Even just tensing and engaging your core muscles will strengthen them. Even more so, if simultaneously engaged in other exercise such as running, weightlifting, push-ups and/or intimate activities with significant others that I’ll leave to the imagination! Always remember, especially in the initial stages, to support and rest your neck and head as these will try to do the work for you until your abs develop enough strength to lift your weight. Practice eventually makes this easier. Also it’s as well remember the saying, ”abs are made in the kitchen.” Diet is the crucial other part of any exercise regime – but not part of this blog post – that’s for another day!

Have fun!

 


You think this was tough? Check this out!  http://youtu.be/axeHMu3rk80

You might also be interested in my blog post about running:  https://fayepatton.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/the-benefits-of-running/

 


 

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Guy Kawasaki – those ’12 tips’ reframed…

 

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In this post, I thought I’d revisit some ideas I picked up (and am still processing) from author, entrepreneur, public speaker and self-styled business ‘evangelist’ Guy Kawasaki. Kawasaki worked at Apple with the late Steve Jobs. He now has dozens of free videos online, books, a blog, courses and classes. (His recent book, ‘Enchantment – The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions’, is available through his website. )


 

As a musician, I am still getting to grips with this new business model of the 360 degree DIY artist/’solo-preneur’. No matter how many times I hear that the industry is now better for us – a global, open playing field where we can sell our wares directly to our customers via the internet and social media – I still find business speak difficult. At times I think artists are more vulnerable than ever to marketing gurus willing to take our money, in return for a kind of bogus access to the wider world via ‘tweets’ and Facebook ‘likes’.

Most of us weren’t taught this at school, and the learning curve can be steep. The myth of the rock star is etched into our modern culture. Traditionally, musicians are supposed to be volatile, semi-nocturnal, booze-addled egomaniacs with little thought for routine, pre-planning or self-analysis – at least not the business side of what we do. That was left that to managers, fixers, agents and record companies – with positive and negative results. But what does come naturally is: flights of inspiration, ‘blue sky thinking’, spiritual reverie, spontaneity and lateral thinking. Creative people already live in that space. That’s why I like this inventive and irreverent list – based on broad, sometimes random, cross-disciplinary principles. I’m going to unpack it from a musicians point of view.  The original film is full of humour and some great anecdotes – well worth a look.

Here we go with:

Guy Kawasakis 12 tips learnt from Steve Jobs:

1. Experts are Clueless. In other words, beware the aura of respectability that goes with traditional education. True knowledge comes from the bones, the body, the years and years of doing it. Trial and error. Experience. The humility of knowing that as we perceive something – it changes and so do we. The more we think we know, the less we know. There is everything to learn and nothing is ever quite what it seems. I’d like to expand this point to say that true experts can be found away from the self-appointed gurus or motivational speakers, scholars or graduates of any field. The best speakers and educators teach through the power of story, anecdote, humour, proven success, spectacular failure, exceptions to every rule, last minute turn arounds, luck and co-incidence.

2. Customers Cannot Tell You What Whey Want.  Most people do not know what they want and are highly suggestible. However, generally we all want to feel these things: prosperous, attractive, sexually desirable, powerful, youthful, respected, inspired, hopeful, loved, comforted and connected – to belong. Part of the whole, yet, special.  Advertisers know this and exploit it to the hilt, whether they’re selling beer, movie tickets, cars, razors, depilatory cream, ready meals, extreme sports holidays, condoms, clothes, weddings, perfume, luxury flats or organic produce. For artists, remember, the power is  in your hands. Despite what others may tell you, you do not have to conform to the latest trend. Write your music the way you hear it and speak your truth. Know yourself and stick to you plan. Bring the audience round, win them over, reel them in. The vast majority of potential customers quite like to be told what to do, what to wear, what to listen to, what products to buy, relieved of the burden of choosing, in a busy fast paced world. Every weekend people buy sunday papers with a colour section filled with explicit consumer directives, lists, selections, reviews and surveys. Literally, ‘Buy this. Eat this’ etc. That’s in addition to the adverts.  You can manipulate this too, to a degree. I believe artists make art primarily for ourselves – our sanity depends on it. If we can sell enough to keep doing it that’s a bonus and if we discover some sort of spiritual mandate about raising the collective vibration in the process, so much the better. Remember your art comes from you, or at least through you. You are the boss. believe it. Embody it. Love it. Then let your natural persuasion flow.

3. Biggest Challenges Beget the Best Work.  If something scares you – do it. If you feel the urge to resurrect  an aspect of your skill set that you neglected, but which your soul is crying out to express – do it. Bite off more than you can chew, feel the terror and watch as your entire career grows and expands. This is hard for artists – every day already feels like a challenge, in terms of money, time, sleep, energy levels and the ongoing search for recognition. It’s worth reaching for the impossible and expanding beyond your limits. However it’s also worth saying that you have to balance this with adequate self-care and nurturance of yourself as the art-producing organism. Give yourself a time frame for your challenges and take yourself seriously enough that when you leap for the stars you have some support in place. Victory loves preparation and I think that fortune favours those who are ready.

4. Design Counts. There is an initial moment in every encounter where style does trump substance. It’s the first impression and it’s usually visual. People respond on this level in a way that’s instinctive and emotional. Something that looks and feels visually coherent and harmonious invites further engagement. Past this point, the non-visual qualities take over, but if you want to hook people in from the get-go, visuals matter. For musicians, decent photos are a must – so are clear graphics, text and pleasing colours for websites, posters, album covers etc.

5. Big Graphics/Big Font. Obvious and yet sometimes overlooked in attempts to be overly artistic and clever, especially in publicity and marketing. Make sure the information you want to convey is coming across. It can make the difference between customers buying your music, or proceeding to the next new face on iTunes whose biog and links they can actually decipher. There are people who willing to go the extra mile to read smaller text and rules can be broken in the name of artistic license. I write this blog with pale text on a brown background – which is not to everyones liking – but the overall impression reflects my style better than a more conventional black on white format.

6. Jump Curves not ‘Better Sameness’.  I like this – and also find it scary. It strikes a chord which applies to all learning. Jazz musicians know that true improvisation is not about playing your known scales as competently as possible. It’s about leaping into the ocean and letting intuition take over. Musicians need to respond to the changing times. What worked for the last year might suddenly not be relevant anymore. There’s no point in doggedly finding better, more persuasive ways to get record label execs to listen to your CD. These days, you’d best get your YouTube channel up and running, because that’s what they’ll expect to see. As an artist, you may have a trademark –  a good line in sad, bluesy love songs, or an affinity with an instrumental sound for which you are known. One day, be prepared that you may never write on that theme again, it’s time for a make-over and having previously been a guitarist you now only want to play the trumpet. Or ditch your backing band, shave your head and release a solo unplugged album. Which your existing fans may hate – but which your expanding audience is ready for. Embrace these quantum transformations wholeheartedly! The emergent butterfly no longer needs to excel at being the best caterpillar. Things move on. Respond. There’s enormous freedom in editing, speeding and cleaning your flow – be it songwriting, recording, networking or marketing. Minimum effort, maximum result is a mantra that works for me.

7. Something Works or Doesn’t Work. The best songs? Nice hooky melodic flow, not too long, beginning, middle and end. The best singing? From the heart, keeping it real on a subject you know about. The best breathing technique? Get it in, get it out. Best customer/fan PR? Draw the people in, give them something real, communicate your message, honour the time spent together, give thanks, let them choose whether to deepen their relationship with you. Be excited about what you do – desire is the rocket fuel that drives any project and pulls people in, making them feel part of a wider community all buzzing on a compatible vibe. Lack of desire for your own art will repel people. All artists go through ’empty shell’ periods where their marketing speak or concert patter becomes reactive, repetitive. Times like this, it’s worth stepping back from the public eye and rekindling the passion.

8. Value is Different from Price. Very important when a musician is negotiating for  session/gig/consultancy/teaching wages. If new instrumental students baulk at my fee, I remind them that the expertise I will bring to them is literally priceless. An investment that will give them hours and hours of potentially infinite satisfaction and empowerment beyond the initial lesson. Same for a gig or function. I’m confident that my value far exceeds the amount of money paid – which is really only an offering of energy in return for the raw material of my soul. Knowing your worth is hugely important these days, more so now that music has been devalued by a saturated marketplace where entertainment is free and ubiquitous. It’s hard not to be affected by this, lowering your prices and standards and also saying ‘yes’ to engagements which are exploitative. When there is a lot of genuine talent out there, how do you price yourself above or below the next person? Only you know if you have something that makes you truly special. Know your value. Then be bold and communicate that value through your actions and words.

9. ‘A’ Players Hire ‘A’ Players. A difficult one, as we’ve all hired staff who are functioning at a sort of intern level and whom we have to train on the job. This is ok for secretarial staff. It’s not so good for band members, session players, business consultants, photographers, engineers or publicity and marketing assistants who are going to be making crucial  phone calls to industry figures. How do you know at interview stage, if you are dealing with an equal and potential peer? They will not be awed by you, they will come across as genuinely self-possessed. They’ll be honest about their experience level and able to negotiate and discuss their own wages and value with an air of confidence. They’ll know your industry and the people in it and have shared reference points, gained through experience. They’ll be able to challenge you in a constructive way and have the right strengths to compliment your weak spots.

10. Real CEOS can Demo. The classic application of this is the music teacher who can play the piece, who knows the landscape inside out, has travelled the territory that the map indicates. Not all music teachers can! The practitioner who is immersed, body and soul in their craft. Not just the musicianship, but the realities of the industry coal face. Taken to a more metaphysical level – like Thomas Dorsey, if you are ‘living the life you sing about in your song’  if there is a congruence between your walk and your talk – this will translate to the punters. So many of whom are looking for something authentic and soulful with which to resonate.

11. Real Entrepreneurs ‘Ship’. Unless I’ve hilariously misunderstood this – this does not mean ‘shipping in the US slang sense, meaning relationship (like customer PR in this context.) This means get your product flying off the shelves  – let go of it and send it into the marketplace even though it may not be flawless and may have elements that could be improved. In other words, ‘done is better than perfect’. Be careful with this one. If it’s your musical product, it’s you that has to live with it being out there in the public domain and it’s counter-intuitive to plug and promote stuff that you feel is not your best. Still, I like the concept of not being too precious and embracing that moment when our art has to live independently.

12. Some Things Need to be Believed to be Seen. Popular books about the ‘Law of Attraction’ talk about this a lot. Have a vision. Everything that has ever existed, existed first, in the mind. See it. Make it real. I’d extend the definition of believed to also mean ‘felt’, in a vibrational sense. If you only work with what you know to be possible, or what you previously thought to be doable, you are not open to the unique path that is your very own. The future isn’t written, nor are the tools for writing it fixed, nor is the vocabulary set in stone. This is very true right now in music and entertainment, concerning media technologies and consumer habits. On an economic, ecological, global and galactic level, all is subject to change. So let your music career truly become a vision quest, holistic and grounded, right from creative inception to the online music store, to the movie sync deal, to the world tour, to the guest appearance at the protest march. Live your dream whilst creating the kind of world, you want to create music in and for. Let your ethical values shine through. If you don’t have some kind of  spiritual practice in your life, now is the time to explore that and to start working in a deliberate way with the tools of visualisation and manifestation. Guide your life from the inside out, design your own path and enjoy the journey.

 I hope you enjoyed this journey!

 


 

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online, graphics-design service, trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation, and executive fellow at the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is the author of The Art of the Start 2.0, The Art of Social Media, Enchantment, and ten other books.

Here is the original film from Silicon Valley Banks CEO Summit in 2011: 12 Lessons Steve Jobs Taught Guy Kawasaki.

 


 

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The Delicate Problem of Unsolicited Advice

Blue Throne

 

If you’re an artist, you may be familiar with this scenario. Sometimes friends, family members, partners or close associates offer us their well-intentioned tips and observations. They may be involved in the music business, but not at the vulnerable, volatile and often lonely coal face of songwriting and performance. It can be very uncomfortable when those who don’t walk in our shoes seem to think they know exactly what our next move should be, and what it is we are doing right and wrong. How do we let them know, with good grace and without causing offence – when we would like them to stop?

None of us wants to chew the heads off well-meaning, enthusiastic (and brave!) relatives or colleagues. They are doing us a favour by letting us know that our lives are of interest to them. They care enough to have an opinion and be passionate about it. They may view us as so formidable that it’s fun to push us a little, make us bristle. So what’s the problem? The trouble is with feedback and constructive criticism is that it takes a lot of energy to process – energy that’s already being deployed at full throttle. Trying to forge an artistic career is a start/stop, head-banging-against-brick-wall, relentless and already somewhat masochistic journey – even when things are going well…

Humour and levity are important. If we have gifts we should be humble and graceful about it, because… let’s face, it no-one likes a diva! Music is for sharing, healing and inspiring others, a service, a vocation, for sure. But I would guess that most artists are not, at their core, people pleasers. I’m certainly not! Principally, I create music for my own mental health – in order to give myself relief, healing and comfort – from the world and from myself. The knock-on benefits are wonderful, but they come second.

Here’s some tips for those moments when you are about to receive some advice that you did not ask for: 

•  Keep really still and notice where you feel the advice in your body. Does it activate panic and ego response? Does it throw you back into a family situation where you felt defensive and threatened? Can you challenge yourself to hear and accept the positive feedback? Saying a simple ‘thank you’ for a compliment is a vital social skill, as is letting negativity flow past you. Not complimentary? ‘thanks for your opinion’ is still a good phrase to practise.
•  Many people give advice that’s about them. I’ve done this myself, dispensing the supposed pearls of wisdom I wish I’d had. It can really get int the way of a person working out their own process in their own time and sometimes it’s best to shut up. Notice when you are doing this or when others are in this role with you. Let everyone own their own stuff. Try to speak to others in the way that you yourself would like to be spoken to. Think before you speak.
•  Experience has taught me the following. Professionally speaking, if you have already done, or are doing, (or have trained others how to do!) the advice you are being given – it’s a good idea to say so, pleasantly, but immediately. It saves everyone energy. But it also covers your back. You designed your journey – you don’t want others to take credit for teaching you what you already knew. Don’t stay silent if someone is trying to ‘take you under their wing’ in an inappropriate way.  Many people are into life coaching right now, so this especially relevant if someone is about to try to sell you advice that you don’t need and don’t want to buy.
• Is the advice giver a fledgling journalist, teacher or social commentator? If so, be kind. At this stage their ego is more fragile than yours. They may find it very exposing to express themselves and may need your support later. You are strong – can you afford to be big-hearted about it?
• Keep it clean. Keep it gracious. Be loving and accept love. It all come from and returns to love. Laugh at your own neurosis. Have the courage to expand and grow. Be grateful and mindful, bigger and stronger. But look ’em dead in the eye and don’t be afraid to let them feel the boundaries that are necessary for you to function as a creator.

 

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