I hate some teleconferences at work. Let me explain. In my team, we have a process that requires us to discuss (or as we say brainstorm) the way that we will implement a specific feature on the developed software. Sometimes the participants in the meeting know exactly what and how we need to develop the feature and discussions are dense, brief, and focused. These meetings, even if they take a long, they leave you with a rewarding feeling that you worked as a team and managed to tackle the problems at hand. I really love these meetings. Sometimes however there are participants who either because of lack of knowledge or any other reason would just throw their ideas even if they are irrelevant or unapplicable and sidetrack the whole discussion losing the momentum and focus of the actual meeting. When they also insist on them, even after you explain the irrelevance, things can get messy. There are times that I am in meetings and I just want to shout… “Focus! We are off-topic!”. Sometimes… some tandas…. with some partners…. feel exactly the same!
Focusing on the subject
In a post a long time ago I was arguing that musicality is like having an opinion on a subject and the subject in this case is the music. I still support this idea and I think there is an extension to it. When you discuss a subject with a friend or in the meetings I was talking about, there are so many angles and dimensions you can look at the subject and everyone depending on their vantage point can form different opinions. When for example, you are discussing with friends politics then your family beliefs, the place you grew up, the friends you made, the experiences you had in your job or even your job itself, and several different factors might lead you to think this or the other way. Moreover, the subject of politics itself is so broad that I could, for example, pay more attention to foreign affairs policies and international politics related to a specific event while a friend of mine could be looking at things from their economic perspective, their impact on everyday life, etc. So even if you are talking about the same thing… the same event… the same subject… each of us can look at it from a different perspective.
When you try to have a conversation on a topic with other people at any given moment you implicitly agree that you are analyzing and looking at the subject from a specific perspective. For example, if you are discussing the war in Ukraine, at a certain point in time you may be discussing the humanitarian crisis and the problems refugees face. After some minutes the point might change and drift to something else… but you still remain tuned and altogether change to the current perspective discussed. Imagine a conversation where everyone speaks about the same subject but from a different perspective… all at the same time… I am talking about the humanitarian crisis, another person about the energy crisis, another about international relations, etc. Could you make sense of such a conversation or would it seem like chaos?
The power of isolation
In many of the musicality classes I followed there is a common advice/pattern. This is to isolate some instrument and pay attention to what it expresses (eg. the rhythmic base, the melody, the counter melody). Afyer introducing the idea teachers then let you try to express that specific instrument or aspect of the music (eg. the piano, the melody, etc). In the beginning, it is difficult. Music is designed and played in such a way that you perceive first the sum of it… the whole of it. It takes some time to start to pay attention to the details. What is the piano doing here, what is the violin playing there… etc. When I started developing this ability to focus on a specific part of the music, ignoring the rest, I realized (from my partners’ reaction) that my dance changed radically. It became more pleasurable, easier, and more understandable. Do you know why?
Because I was able to create and participate in a conversation focusing on the subject and more specifically on the selected perspective we were discussing at that specific time. Before that, my dance was all over the place. It was like I was talking and changing the perspective even in the middle of a sentence. I also realized another thing. It is very important to stick to a specific perspective for enough time so that both you and your partner realize it, tune in and speak about it. Then when the time comes and another perspective seems to be more interesting… you can change. But the longer you focus on a perspective, the pauses that you take in between changing perspectives and the decisions you take each time are shaping your dance. As I have written before it is like writing an essay. If you write a whole paragraph with a beginning, main part, and end and then move on… it is much easier to read it.
So, yes… our dances are dialogs… musicality is like having an opinion on a subject (song)… and the better you can focus on the different perspectives of a subject, isolate them, express them and stick to them for enough time in a conversation (dance) the easier, the more pleasurable and enjoyable your dance will be. So please… focus your conversations (dance) and don’t try to talk about everything in those 2 or 3 minutes! It is not possible!
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
In many cases tango songs will try to force you to pick a perspective by amplifying, stressing placing in the foreground a particular element of the music be it the rhythm, the melody, the countermelody, or some specific instrument sole, etc. Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is one of those songs that almost always keeps a sweet balance between the different elements-perspectives making it quite easy to choose and work with one of them…. all this until 1:53 when something special happens and your attention shifts to it. Can you ignore it? Can you focus somewhere else?