Learning the trumpet log #1

Last week my trumpet arrived. A second-hand Boosey & Hawkes that I bought on eBay.

In a week or so I’ve gone from being a little scared of it, to managing a few honks, to being able to produce a fairly pleasing sound and go up and down C-D-E-F-G.

It’s not the first time I’ve been really keen on an instrument, bought one and set about learning to play: tenor sax in my 20s, cello in my early 30s, classical and flamenco guitar in my late 30s/early 40s, piano in my 50s and samba drumming in my late 50s. And now, in my early 60s, the trumpet - my first brass instrument.

What’s different is that this is the first instrument I am learning with the intention of approaching it as an Embodied Practice. In other words, a practice that’s not only about Layer 1 (the pleasure of doing it) and Layer 2 (building skill and competence) but also Layer 3 (working through the body with awareness to intentionally develop personal qualities in action) and Layer 4 (shaping my identity, my self-narrative).

To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about Embodiment or Personal Development when I bought the trumpet. I was listening to, and feeling inspired by, and seeking out trumpet players and pieces that really hit the spot for me. And I guess buying the trumpet was a way of getting more deeply into the sound - and maybe a way of identifying with those players and fantasising about being them, like people who buy soccer jerseys of their favourite player.

But since I bought the instrument, and since I am so invested in Embodiment and Personal Development in Action, it’s an ideal opportunity to track the whole process in a reflective (b)log.




Playing in the dark

Playing in the dark

Yesterday evening’s Systema session in Matt Hill‘s academy mostly took place in the dark - or at least without room lights, so the room had only a little glow from outside.

For this session, we each had a training knife - just like the real thing, but totally blunt. We were working on relaxed movement, and cultivating sensitivity to the changes in embodiment when a person decides to make a move with harmful intent.

Shades of the Pink Panther!!

In case you were wondering, I have never been involved in real-life physical violence and I don’t live the sort of life that would expose me to it. Except somebody once bumped hard into me on an escalator in London but he was texting at the time so it was probably not intentional and I let him off.

Systema doesn’t teach the sort of neat moves I could show (off to) people who ask for a demonstration. It doesn’t have any of those photogenic set-piece martial arts sequences - quite the reverse in fact. In the unlikely event of me getting caught in a tricky situation, I have no idea whether Systema training would help me look after myself. But don’t take that as a challenge … 

I originally started attending in January 2016 because the EFC course with Mark Walsh and Francis Briers (recommended) required me to take up something new and different. I tried kendo, and 5Rhythms dancing too, but Systema felt like the one I needed. Lots of playful, free-form physical contact with no need to master set sequences of movement as I would in partner dance or formal martial arts. No teams, no rules, no competing. Just all together learning to apply four core principles (movement, breathing, relaxation and posture) even in stressful situations.