Nothing lasts forever; this truth is the reason why we place value on even fleeting moments. When we consider this, it is no wonder why after working for any length we would be reluctant to let any part of the result go. Never has this been more relevant than in music making.
We practise for weeks attempting to learn something to the tiniest of details, only to then be told that we need to move on. It is not hard to see why any sane person would not want to do this, but in actuality, it is part of growth, both mentally and physically.
A Mandala is an intricate design created in a number of mediums, faiths and cultures. In tantric Buddhism, they are often created using sand over exceptionally long periods of time. A form of meditation, these intricately designed structures are painstakingly created in a symbolic ritual.
In one such ritual, sand is scattered a few grains at a time in lines that interconnect to create an image. The ritual has a large number of hidden meanings and metaphors that represent aspects of our interaction with the world.
For some of these Mandalas, the image only reveals itself after looking at it from a great height from above; a metaphor into how even the tiniest grain of sand is important to the larger, grand scheme in the order of things.
In a true essence of the belief system, the ritual represents birth, life, growth, and death. The structure is worked on for sometimes upwards of two months, spanning in some instances entire floors of rooms. Once completed, months of work is blown away, destroyed, to be started again.
Nothing lasts forever.
The process is repeated over and over that even the smallest detail can be recalled. In essence, and with the utmost respect, almost all areas in life follow this fundamental principle; we could learn a lot from our Buddhist friends.
On arrival to my first year of undergraduate study, my mentor, an inspirational teacher, and exceptional pianist, Lesley Young said:
“As you progress through life, you will find yourself progressing to the top of one ladder, only to see another ladder to climb.”
At the time, we – my peers and I – had to make peace with the prospect of three years degree study. Until this point, Grade 8 was seen as the pinnacle of what it meant to be a musician, a rhetoric that was reinforced by many well-intentioned but nonetheless ignorant people.
Grade 8 is only the beginning, which itself is the equivalent to A level sixth-form year two relevant modules (theory and composition, or practical performance). Like all subjects, music can be studied to first degree (Bachelors), second degree (Master’s), and even third degree (Doctorate).
In some special situations, a lucky few might even study to Post-Doctoral, where they are funded to research fulltime. A life’s work, that can only be achieved by embracing progression and not holding on to fleeting moments.
An analogy and extreme example would be the potential of a world-class scientist being hindered and hampered by them not willing to progress past mixing bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Though impressive the first time a person witnesses this experiment, if this was all they did, they would never progress to the stage where they might discover something and change the world.
We never truly arrive at a point where we ‘know it’, but we do get further along our journey. We must be willing to let what we have go in order to move forward. Remember you can always revisit it later in time, which, in itself is a useful exercise due to our perspective changing with time and growth.
Dylan completed his music training with honours at Colchester Institute, where he studied piano with Australian pianist Lesley Young, and composition with British composer Dr Mark Bellis. While studying, in 2009, Dylan won Colchester Institute’s Canon Jack Award for Solo Piano adjudicated by Andrew Ball. A composer, promoter, and advocate of contemporary classical music, Dylan joined the membership of Colchester New Music in 2014.
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