Meanwhile, we are already several months far into the extraordinary year 2022 and I am getting ready with Isle of the Sky for the recording of some new songs that have been with me for a while now. Like a dog spins around its basket before comfortably settling down, I too am mentally preparing myself for the moment of coming home to myself again.
Getting myself in the right (musical) mood, that’s what it’s all about. After the mental preparation period follows the physical activity and that is always a kind of unknown leap in the deep end while at the same time you know very precisely what you are doing. You focus on the activity but without really focusing on it. Yes I know, it sounds contradictory but it is not. Actually it is the most ordinary thing in the world.*
Throwing myself wholeheartedly into something – being totally absorbed in what I am doing – is also called ‘being in flow’. Then you ‘lose’ yourself and the time that is moving on ceases to exist. Then there is no more ego and the soul takes over. Then you step out of yourself, transcend yourself and live fully. Everything is then more real than real.
Flow is pure nature: wild, free and genuine. Flow is organic, like the wind, the seasons, the rhythm of day and night, the tides of the water. Our own breathing repeats that flow of ebb and flow.
Children are usually in flow. They are completely absorbed in their play or imagination and do not dwell on time as adults do. Most adults lose that gift when they grow up and get responsibilities.
I love to be in flow all the time (or as much as possible, anyway). Flow has become my lifestyle. When I wake up, have breakfast… from the very beginning of the day I try to be grateful, loving and in flow. I have noticed that all these things make me very happy.
Musicians are expected to have to practice a lot and be technically adept before they can play “freely” and thus experience flow. Of course this is true. But of course it doesn’t mean that musicians who are not technically skilled cannot play freely at all. Look, I have absolutely no technique. I can’t read notes and I don’t play any instrument. I have only a bit of vocal technique. And I can hear from where – from what realm – someone is singing: a (singing) voice does not lie. If someone is singing from his/her ego, then I can hear that. Or if someone tries too hard (to sound beautiful or perfect, for example), I hear that. Even if someone is, so to speak, the most wonderful singer in the world: if I don’t feel ‘it’, it doesn’t touch me and therefore I don’t find it really beautiful. Beautiful to me is inspired. Even though it may not be perfectly technically proficient.
For the rest I am creative, I love music and I have no problem with my own unique way of working. So I just cut and paste and ‘do something’. If I have to pay attention to an instrument and my voice at the same time, it is already very difficult for me. So I rehearse just enough until I can play certain technical actions on automatic pilot. Nowadays I also use a backtrack. That is a pre-recorded loop or soundscape to which I then sing live. That way, during a performance, I can fully focus on my flow, the feel of the song and the message/meaning of the lyrics. I am still aware of what I am doing, but at the same time I enter a zone where ‘I’ no longer matters. How I sound, how I sing, what I look like, … All those things fade away. Until finally they disappear completely and I feel everything ‘flowing’. That is wonderful! And it is absolutely fantastic when I can feel that I can involve the audience in this and even take them with me. Then it’s as if we all wake up together afterwards.
* In ancient Eastern cultures such as China, the concepts of ‘not doing’ and ‘not trying’ have been known for a very long time. In the West, these concepts were reintroduced by Carl Gustav Jung.