When I was in college (UCONN during the mid-1980s: “Go Huskies!”), I read about a book about creativity. I don’t remember the title or author (maybe Rollo May?), but I do remember what surprised me the most about it: Flow.
The author had interviews dozens of creative people in all different fields, from music and the visual arts to science and lot of other professions. And they all used the same word to describe the creative process: Flow.
Well, even though I had never thought of “flow” in this way before, I thought that if all these great artists, scientists, sports players, etc were pointing in the same direction, then maybe I could learn something by discovering more about Flow.
When we think about flow, the image of flowing water often comes to mind. There are a lot of musical pieces written about water, from Smetana’s “The Moldau” to The Beatles’ “Rain” and Yiruma’s “River Flows In You.” (Also check out Duke Ellington’s “The River” and George Harrison’s “Pisces Fish.”
And yes, a big part of “playing piano with flow” is to emulate the flowing of water, whether it’s with relaxed, legato phrases or by letting the groove flow.
But I’ve also gradually come to realize that the concept of Flow can help us as musicians in many other ways, too.
While playing, we can “get out of our own way” and let the music flow through us.
We can let our practice sessions naturally flow from one area of study to the next.
We can learn one piece after another with a sense of flow as well.
And, while seeing what we need to learn at any given moment is the most elusive aspect of our musical development, we can let this process flow as well.
These are all important ways in which we can go deeper and deeper into the concept of flow with our music. The more we can successfully do this, the more we will benefit from our musical pursuits.
Enjoy the journey. And “let the music flow!”
PS - Here’s Day 28 of my Keith Jarrett Piano Improv Challenge. This one really went in some surprising directions!
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