Although this quote immediately invites us to examine what effect ego may have on our work, we might also consider how the idea can teach us more about our physical habits of holding tension. Borrowing directly from (and continually inspired by) Barbara Conable’s How to Learn the Alexander Technique, I often describe the process of inhibiting tension using her model of moving from X to X on a trajectory of tense to free.


A goal of getting from the tense X to the free X is unrealistic. Rather, at any moment in the day, regardless of your activity, consider traveling even a small distance towards the free X.

Barbara writes, “The model is a reassuring one. It saves the misery of the Am I There Yet? question by crediting a range of experience, and it focuses attention on strategies for reliably negotiating the student’s current range on the continuum. It promotes an ideal of gradual experimentation and libration rather than of Getting There.”

But what if we were also training ourselves to move that tense X further away?


What if we could retrain our bodies to move where “free” is, thereby experiencing more and more efficiency in movement, awareness of gravity, and balance in movement?

What does this mean for the practice room? Whether dealing with focal dystonia or not, we can all continue to search for and to be open to finding an even freer physical experience in order to execute our musical intentions and to be open to more direct and profound musical expression.

It is impossible to learn to play freely when we think we already know how to play freely.

Title from Epictetus


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