vrijdag 16 oktober 2015

The urge to create

If I want to get anything from this period, besides my health, it is to be able, to not be embarrassed about and to take the time to create. To make something out of nothing. 

When we go to school the system takes away developing creativity and further in kids. It is all, putting it very black and white, about analysis, about using existing systems to come to certain and especially planned result. 

I remember my first poetry class when I was 12. The teacher asked what we thought a certain poem was about. I was fascinated by the text and gave an answer. I can't remember what I said or which poem it was, but I did remember the answer: 'No, that is not correct'. Someone else gave the 'correct' answer. 

The rest of my high school followed this path more or less. And even after 10th grade my Greek teacher tried to stimulate me to spend less time on my horn and music and more time on school. How wrong could he have been!

It would all have been bearable if our creativity was stimulated somehow. I can remember one project which we were all very excited about. A physics project that we had to come up with ourselves and work our on our own. 

But that was it. 

Also on the conservatory I missed basis classes to create something. And I always defended this: classical music is creative. We have to think of programmes, phrase, come up with a tempo, etcetera! But in the end we play notes by other people. Which is great , don't get me wrong. There's great music written which I love to play. But I miss that nobody showed me how to make things. Really whatever. To write this blog is something already. But how great would it have been if someone would showed how to come up with subjects, and how to construct a text? I am finding out now as I write. And that works too. Like the old jazz players, who learned to play by doing it, playing sessions, imitating records. Sure, that works too. But if your calling is not strong enough you're stuck reproducing. And I think everyone should know what it is to create something, from nothing. 

Martijn's suggestions during our class

Today I had my first composition class from Martijn padding. It was a revelation. I prepared something for him. A sort of minimalistic modal piece for solo instrument. The first step was to overcome embarrassment. I played so many good notes in my career that after every two notes I judge them: I have heard this before and better. But I did passed this. I think because of photography. I learned to separate the creation flow from the analysis flow. Like practicing, playing and trying to analyze what could be better. 

I sat down at the piano and started playing notes and writing down what I thought sounded good. I did get stuck often. But I just tried to go on. And out came some ideas for my composition class which we used and discussed. I now have a starting point for something new. I am not sure how I will develop this. And that's fine. Even if it won't evolve into a piece it's all good. I spend some hours into making something. And that's what it's about for now. 

Reinventing the way I listen to music with Hank Jones and Charlie Haden

When I started making music it changed my life. It was not only the music itself, but also the social aspect, finding friends who like the same thing. People who like to memorize Michael Brecker solos, who love to study ugly overtones every day and are always on he look out for new music to listen. The way we listened and studied music changed the way I think.

In 2008 this all changed. I as injured in an accident. My ulnar nerve was severed and my right hand was paralyzed for about half. The doctors predicted I could never play again.
They were wrong.
I didn't play for about half a year and started to practice again. My first project was a cd with pieces that I could play with one hand. I released a cd called 'On the Other Hand' after. My idea was that the cd was my final project as a musician or the start of a new period.

It turned out to be the last.

And then I got cancer. Again another season of recovery. Another period of contemplation. 

In the last four years I have largely stopped listening to music. Photography took over. I listened to music intensely for 35 years before that. Discovering so much creativity, sounds, new stuff, ranging from old music to gospel, from baroque to Andrew Lloyd Webber, from Debussy to Xenakis, from Charlie Parker to Evan Parker... And then it stopped. I discovered photography, and kept playing.

Now I have cancer and I am undergoing chemo therapy. And I am rediscovering music. Being a pro musician changed the way I experience music. One of the reasons I listen to music to get something from it. To be inspired for my craft in some way.

Now I am getting back to listening to music. Not being able to play and being in survival mode in my daily life has changed the way I listen to music. 

Charlie Haden & Hank Jones on @AppleMusic

I found this album through my Apple Music subscription. Gospel-like folk tunes played by Hank Jones (recorded three months before he died) and one of my idols, Charlie Haden.
I have listened to it several times already the last week. I played it for my friends and the album accompanies me on my daily walks. It's a simple album. There's hardly one dissonance on it. The bass parts are basic and the piano doesn't play alterations.

But this album will not give something to work with in my own practice. Yes, maybe abstract inspiration, but no concrete ideas, big or small. I just enjoy this album. No strings attached. I can listen to it and not think about how I can incorporate this somehow in my own playing. I don't listen to this album, listening for things I like or don't like.

Being a musician changed the way I experience music. And that's fine. But I guess that's what people mean when they decide that do not want to be a pro musician and keep enjoying music like a true amateur. Apparently it took me 20 years to discover this. I am not sure if I can go back to this experience of music. But this album is a great start again. 

maandag 12 oktober 2015

Mensen zijn gaaf

In de Correspondent verscheen een tijdje geleden dit artikel:


Over Peter Aleksejevitsj Kropotkin:

(foto: de Correspondent)

De strekking is dat Kropotkin geloofde dat alle mensen goed zijn. In een tijd dat Darwin met zijn evolutietheorie kwam was dat een idee dat lijnrecht in ging tegen de tijdsgeest. En ook nu gaan links en rechts er van uit dat de mens in wezen niet te vertrouwen is. Nou ja, lees het artikel en zijn boeken als je er meer over wilt lezen.

Toen ik kanker kreeg en met mijn chemo begon kreeg ik zoveel berichtjes, bloemen, kaartjes, aanbiedingen om te koken, etc. Het was ongelooflijk. Iedereen was zo geëmotioneerd door het nieuws. Meer nog dan ikzelf leek het soms wel. Mensen die ik soms maar zijdelings kende kwamen langs en waren zichtbaar aangedaan. Ik heb een hele andere kant van mijn kennissen- en vriendenkring leren kennen door mijn kanker. Iedereen is zo begaan met me.

Aan de ene kant is het wel gek dat ik hiervoor kanker moet krijgen, aan de andere kant is het ook wel voorstelbaar. Het leven gaat voor veel mensen (inclusief mezelf) als een sneltrein aan me voorbij. Door de kanker en vooral de chemo moet ik pas op de plaats maken. Een seizoen lang. Als je hoort dat iemand in je buurt, op deze leeftijd!, kanker heeft, stop je even met alles wat je doet. Het behoort kennelijk tot de mogelijkheden dat je lekker bezig bent, je leven aan de gang is, en dat dan dit gebeurt. Het is vooral lullig voor mij, maar het doet je even beseffen dat alles kwetsbaar is.

Maar dat is het niet alleen. De mensen om me heen zijn écht met me begaan, en zijn zich veelal rotgeschrokken. Er is meer aan de hand. Iets onverklaarbaars, échte empathie. Opeens valt er een hoop onzin om me heen weg. Soms heb ik het gevoel dat menselijke relaties draaien om, of in ieder geval gedeeltelijk zijn gebaseerd op, geven en nemen, maar dat is nu weg. Ik kan niets tot weinig geven op dit moment. En toch geven mensen mij heel veel. Ze willen wandelingen met me maken, sturen me bloemen, kaartjes, CD's, bellen me. Zonder iets terug te verwachten.

Als er nou iets is wat ik over wil houden aan deze tijd, dan is het in ieder geval dit.

donderdag 24 september 2015

My body

Things are happening to my body. You know, the chemo is like poison, blah blah, kills the bad cancer cells, but also lots of good ones. That's why my hairs falls out for example.

Tonight I woke up and realized that I lost part of the feeling in my left pinky. It's a side effect of the vincristina, the medicine I get in the second week, which I had twice now. The medicine can give nerve damage, not always, but in my case it apparently does. Usually you first lose some feeling in the outer parts of the nerves, finger tips and toes. It could also give some damage to my fine motorics. Usually it is reversible, from what I understand. But doesn't have to be. I already had some weird feeling in both of my wrists, which started with one wrist last week, which I thought was because of the infusion.

It's al very vague still. A non musician might not even have noticed yet. But I am very focussed on it. I want to get as much of this medicine in as we can, but at the same time I do not want to run the risk of damage to my fine motorics, especially in my hands...
I  am not sure what the consequences for my sax playing will be. Probably not so much, but we'll have to see. 

In the mean time I am playing the sax every day. Technique mostly. Scales, patterns for jazz, etudes to give the specific fine motorics I need the play the sax exercise and to know if something is going on with the nerves. 

I spoke to a patient of my doctor who had the same treatment and is finished now for half a year. He feels good again. Actually, he has been feeling good for some months again. This summer the neuropathy did not bother him anymore. Half a year and it was gone in his case. But... The chemo is different for everyone. The nurses cannot and will not give any predictions about how the chemo will affect someone. 

I got quite panicky tonight, feeling my pinky. It's all out of my control. When I have the flue I stay in bed. But I cannot do anything in this case. All I can do is create the best environment to minimize damage, in general. 
My body is still mine. But things are happening. And most of these things, if not (almost?) all are reversible. No reason for panic.

Let's see what the doctor says. She's dealt with this before. She should know.

Next week I have a pet/ct scan to see how the therapy is affecting the cancer. I can already feel the glands shrinking when I feel in my neck and chest. I think it's working. 

dinsdag 22 september 2015

Substance and tranquility vs or and entertainment?

I gave myself off for some weeks, off from everything. I gave myself permission to do or not do everything I want. Well, of course I am there for my family when I can, but other than that I did whatever I wanted. I did not play the sax for two weeks. Until my onco-physiotherapist said I should practice my  fine motorics to handle the neuropathy that might be a side-effect of on of the chemo medicins. I am doing etudes, scales every day now, well I try to... It feels like meditation. But it's hard to not always feel I need input, entertainment, music, series, radio, books. To sometimes let go...

This is one of the nurses putting a needle for an infusion in my arm. They don't always hit it the first time. Like last week when my veins were protesting...

Last week I noticed I needed something more. Substance and tranquility. I started meditating again yesterday. With the help of some mp3's. My onco-psychologist gave me some apps and audio to help me.

It feels good to have the time to let these needs seep in. To not always feel obliged to do something that's 'good' for me. After watching all of 'Breaking Bad' in three weeks, starting 'Fargo', a few seasons of ''Modern Family' I started watching documentaries, more public broadcasting, it came by itself. But now I need more. I started this blog, to create something. To publish some photos. I am starting small. Let's see what will follow.

I am thinking about composing, have a new ensemble in mind and I'm doing photography.

Even before I got cancer I felt the need to create something more than before. This might be my chance to start something, with music. I started with photography some years ago and I am expanding. At the conservatory I feel I missed this. To not have created something, to not having learned the tools to make something myself. Even at high school. School in Holland is practical, you're preparing for something that is set-up. Even at the conservatory, although it's more free there. But still, to create something from nothing is magical. Like this blog. Or the picture below. I remember when I took it, right before a concert. I didn't realize it would be something, but it turned out to be this. I love it.

Thanks Wouter de moor for posting this quote on FB in reaction to this post:

maandag 21 september 2015

They blew up my face!

I got an allergic reaction to one of the medicines. One of my best friends apped me that Isis called. Isis? I asked. To claim the explosion of my face....!

The second cycle is heavier than the first one. My body and mind are saying no. The allergy to one of the medicines, but also my veins are closing for the infuse it seems. The nurses couldn't find good veins in my left arm. I want the left arm, because the right one is the one that has nerve damage from my accident in 2008. In the end they had to do the right arm, in the hand itself, which I didn't want either. Because of playing the sax. But it seemed there was no other choice. 

The nausea was quite overwhelming this time as well. But at least I know better what to expect after the first cycle. 

Today is a better day. Slight naesea. But I feel like eating and some tranquility. The despair in the first cycle was tough. To be honest. 

I woke up Monday night at 2:00 with his face. Can you imagine? Red eyes and 39,5 fever, even with the prednisone. The worst of this cycle is over at least. 

12 hours later my face was back to normal with no fever. The next bag of medicin was ready to go in.

I am trying to train my saxophone technique every day to train the fine motorics, as adviced by the onco-physiotherapist (yes, this is a profession!). On hand it feels very good, practicing only technique, like a meditation, but on the other hand, I am not sure how my technique is now. It doesn't seem to be as fluent as before he chemo. Not sure why, fatigue, neuropathy (possible nerve damage because of one of the medicines), other things. I want to just focus on doing it. The medicines will have to go in anyway....

That's something new for me: I have to take these medicines because otherwise I will die... Sounds dramatic, but my onco-psychologist (also a profession!) pointed this out to me today.

Again, I will get better, and stronger than before. With some scars, physical and emotional, but hey, I will be able to play the blues better!