I have been reading The Music Lesson; A Spiritual Search for Growth through Music by Victor Wooten. I was introduced to the book when the Professor I was TA-ing for included one chapter on the reading list for his first year music course. At the time, I thought this was a bit strange, to have 18 year-olds reflect on the purpose and spirituality of making music. Shouldn’t they be learning skills, technique and repertoire? Now, I get it. Without this kind of introspection, musicianship becomes all about correctness but lacks wholeness.
Victor Wooten, a “Grammy award-winning musical icon and legendary bassist”, takes the reader on a narrative journey. He describes how a music teacher comes into his life and imparts essential lessons. You never really know if this is a dream, if the teacher is real, and it doesn’t really matter. It is a delightful read, and causes you to reflect on the relationship you have with music. I’d like to share a few quotes from the book. Maybe it will cause you to pause and reflect, or inspire you to read more from Victor Wooten.
“Your technique should be at such a high level that you can forget about it. Eventually, you will even forget about your bass. Only then can you remember how to play Music. Think about talking. When you talk, the words are your notes. Your tongue, diaphragm, mouth, teeth, lips, and so on are your instruments. How you use them to push air across our vocal cords and through your lips to form words is your technique, but you rarely think about that.”(Wooten, 78)
“A child playing air-guitar knows no technique or Music theory and probably doesn’t even own a real guitar, yet plays no wrong notes. The sheer enjoyment he exudes overshadows any of his shortcomings. This is emotion in action.” (Wooten, 98)
“We think that music stops at the ears. That is a mistake. Vibrations can be felt in all places, at all times, even with the eyes.” (Wooten, 235)
Imagine the freedom, confidence, passion and joy of making Music for Music. What if, like the title of this book says, we could experience a spiritual search for growth through music?