Music Inspiration Journal: #2 On Emotion


Please use a discerning gaze when reading these claims, which deserve critical examination. This documentation represents a snapshot of my internal landscape at a certain point in time in my life during my collegiate career.


“On Emotion: From the Evolution of Consciousness by Robert Ornstein:

[Emotions] are at the frontline of experience. Since they evolved to short-circuit deliberations, they spring quickly into action before rational deliberation has time to function (92).”

I am my ability to reflect my emotions onto guitar and musical ideas.
I am my ability to feel and remember emotion encoded in music.
I am my ability to direct and harness emotion with my experience.

This entry is extremely short, so I figured that I might reflect upon the inspiration that moved me to write this several years ago.

I was incredible intrigued when I first read the above passage in Ornsteins’ book. The entire work is a trip, “The Evolution of Consciousness.” To see in writing, this claim that our emotions have an evolutionary nature that allows them to bypass our conscious thought, this hit me deeply. And looking back into time, doesn’t it make sense that emotions would allow our evolutionary ancestors to automatically react out of, say, mortal fear of a tiger in the bushes. To sit and contemplate whether or not the tiger was in the bushes, whether or not the tiger was real, or whether or not the tiger is actually just a perception existing in my own mind, all of these thoughts are going to quickly remove this ancient hominid’s genes from the pool.

These aren’t my thoughts. I’m sure I’ve heard Joe Rogan talk about this too. It’s not a new idea.

But the capacity to engage with music, interfacing with my emotions? That’s interesting. Because if I can engage with music, interfacing with my body and my emotions, can I tap into this instinctual capacity to bypass my logical thought? If my emotions are engaged, if I am deeply feeling something, anything, and then I engage with art, if I channel my feelings into what I’m doing, isn’t that so much richer and deeper than simply hacking apart all of music theory and spilling all the guts and appendages of my instrument’s technical nature onto the music stand in front of me? I went to school for Jazz studies. I am endlessly fascinated by the inner-workings of music theory, harmony, melody, voice leading, rhythm, and how all these elements show up through the instrument in front of me. I can pull up my rubber gloves and pick at things with my tweezers all day. But lord, I sounds pretty dry and boring if that’s all there is when I play.

So what is this about emotions short-circuiting our deliberations? What does it really mean to “play with feeling?” And that’s not rhetorical. Seriously. How does that feel? How do you do that? Are there some ways that I can always emerge from a place of deep feeling, visceral emotion, living vibration when I perform? Can I make a marriage of my arduous effort to organize shapes, structures, cells, intervals, scales, chord voicings, harmony, voice leading, and the whole musical catastrophe with raw-fucking-throbbing-emotion?

This is why I wrote this entry. This is the impulse behind my, perhaps corny, affirmations – how can I harness my biology to help my ego and my thoughts and my sense of self get the fuck out of the way? How can I bring my life and the reality of my successes and failures, the constant turmoil of emotional waves, my fears and insecurities, my power and strength, the still and unmoving ocean of my being, and everything I have into my art. What the fuck does that feel like?

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