Friday, July 29, 2011

Your Personal Click Track

As children, we tend not to notice things like feelings. Not only feelings in others, but also, feelings in ourselves. Not only emotions, but also physical sensations. To be sure, how we feel affects us, but less significantly than it does as adults. Event when our feelings do affect us, we seem to be unaware of them. We focus on what we want and what we do more than how we feel. We certainly don't sit around contemplating our feelings.

You see a child with a cold, snot running down his face, happily playing with his toys except for the occasional interruption of his mom wiping his nose. You see a child running in a game of tag. She stumbles and falls, and then without hesitation, bounces up and rejoins the game, until her parents teach her that falling might hurt her by asking if she's OK.

Sure, I'm oversimplifying a bit, but it seems to me that as we grow older, we become more sensitive to and more subject to how we feel. So much so that our everyday actions are dictated by how we feel at that moment and our perception of how the action will "make" us feel.

I Can't Trust My Brain
Last night after writer's group, Iris and I sit talking over Sushi. Iris says, "You know what. I realize that I can't trust my brain!"

As we talk, it becomes clear that by "my brain", Iris means her feelings in the moment. Oftentimes she sets an intention at the beginning of the day only to find that she doesn't fulfill it by the end of the day. Days turn to weeks, weeks to months, and before she knows it, a longterm intention has gone unfulfilled. Iris' challenge isn't intention or desire, it's method. Iris often puts too much credence into how she feels in the moment.

Although, when compared to action, feelings are ephemeral and transient, they can seem to be cast in stone. In those moments, your mind suggests:
perhaps it would be better to write tonight, when you have more time


you know, it's not good to exercise every day;
perhaps you should take a break


you've really been slipping up lately, forgetting things, losing things;
there may be something wrong with you
In those moments, your feelings win out.

We all experience this. We all succumb to it from time to time. The question is: What do you do about it?

How do you stop your feelings and emotions from overriding your best intentions? How do you end the cycle?

Cutting Tracks
As I consider these questions, the phrase that pops into my head is: click track. Back in the days when music studios used tape recorders, the first thing to be recorded was a click track. The tempo for the song would be established and then a metronome or drum machine would be used to record a tick-tock sound on one of the tape tracks. The tick-tock sound would be played into the headphones of anyone recording to ensure that they stayed in time.

Not only did the click track ensure perfect time, but it also made doing other things much easier. If you were recording a song with three choruses, you only needed to get the background vocals right one time; afterwards they could be sampled and then played back over the other choruses. If the instruments dropped out for an a capella section, the singers wouldn't lose tempo. If one musician was in LA and the other in New York, each could record locally using completely different systems; their independent contributions were combined later. The click track provided everyone a common frame of reference, a grounding.

Many musicians resist click tracks. They'll tell you that it's too restrictive and that it makes music feel unnatural, too regimented. Usually what they really mean is that it makes them feel uncomfortable. A click track is unforgiving. If your time is off, it shows up immediately. No matter how long you've played, no matter how good you feel about your sense of time, the first time you play with a click track can be daunting; it reveals a little too much.

However, once you let go of those feelings and trust the click, things get better. The click goes from impediment to enabler, from restrictive to freeing.

For me, the click track is freeing. For example, I love to play with complex rhythms, layers of patterns that repeat on different frequencies. Patterns of seven overlaying patterns of four overlaying patterns of three. Sometimes when I take a solo, I'll throw in a seven note phrase where one would normally play eight notes. This can throw off a band that's not grounded rhythmically. However, when the band has a click track, a rhythmic anchor, I can do completely crazy rhythms that tie perfectly.

Keeping Time
So, what's a click track got to do with adults being emotion-junkies? How can a click track help you fulfill your intentions? I think the analog is a schedule. Not only do you set intentions, but you schedule their fulfillment and then, whether you feel like it or not, when the time comes to fulfill the intention, you do it. You don't even entertain the question; you give your feelings no consideration. The schedule becomes your click track.

At first, it may feel uncomfortable or restrictive. However, if you give it time, it can become freeing.

"My life's too unpredictable to be scheduled!", you say? Well, then schedule some time to handle the unanticipated stuff. You'd be amazed at how many urgencies take care of themselves when you schedule time to address them later.

Perhaps it's time for you to lay down a click track for your life?

Happy Friday,

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