Literature: One Buttock Playing: The Art of Possibilites

I am getting a bit bored by the redundancy in this book, as well as by Mr. Zander’s monumental ego. I think it might work better distilled to one long essay rather than being drawn out into a book, giving me so much time with his self-congratulation and somewhat pretentious language flourishes (though she is worse than he in this I think). But still the central insights of openness to possibilities, of connection to the moment and to community are true and powerful.

The worst catch phrase so far in the book, one that I will not adopt, is “one-buttock playing”. Perhaps he finds the irony of its relationship to the idiom “half-assed” amusing. But just as Roz spoke about the way language and conceptions can create a resistive inner reality, I feel this linguistic connection to half-assed doing just that with this catch phrase, probably because I am not a piano player and so have no somatic connection to how one’s buttocks feel as one plays passionately.

A few years ago, I suppose in a bit of a midlife crisis, I gave up my movie career and moved up to Berkeley to try and fulfill my youthful dreams as a starving artist. I lived in a cold and leaky shipping container on ramen and dumpster diving while trying to make art in the brilliant, punk rock artistic community I had come to know from Burning Man.

My solar installation at The Shipyard

I was too old and too much of a hippie to thrive among them. Most of my memories from those times are of bitter cold, loneliness and frighteningly drunken and angry young men, but one of the things that still shines in my heart was my regular Tuesday night trips to the venerable Freight & Salvage’s open-mike nights, where for only 2 bucks, I could get a whole evening’s entertainment.

And it was good, often really good, to me paradoxically good because these were almost never very good players. What I discovered there was that the reputation and history of that stage tended to bring out a commitment in these artists, who would throw themselves into their performances with a gusto and presence that imbued even mediocre playing with a sense of humanity and emotion that were unmistakable and immensely moving.

I think this is what Zander is getting at in these chapters about the way things are and giving way to passion, however misguided and egocentric his ensconcing of “one buttock playing” and “beyond the fuck it” as tropes of wisdom and insight.

5 thoughts on “Literature: One Buttock Playing: The Art of Possibilites

  1. Nesdon,
    Perhaps as a musician, I can relate to the idea of “one buttock playing”. Musically, I think it’s about not so much focusing on the technical aspects of the music (notes, rhythms, etc.), but making the music expressive and emotional, which is what makes it come alive, therefore moving the player to one buttock instead of two. I think everyone can come up with their own ideas for applying that to other areas of life, but that’s what I got out of it, musically, anyway.

    • I think I can understand it as not just sitting there and playing with your fingers, but playing with one’s whole body. What I was saying about Freight and Salvage and commitment was in agreement with this, but I just think idiom is poor. Particularly beyond the half-assed connotation, as it reeks a bit of dirty old man to me. This is what may be specific to piano players who actually have a connection to that feeling of being up on one cheek.

  2. First I must say that your first picture of Bush conducting is incredibly scary 🙂 

Nesdon, I understand where you’re coming from when you say the book is becoming redundant and a bit self-serving. Being a typically modest person myself, perhaps this is also part of the message of the book – to be more self-congratulating and open about what you bring to this world.

I also must say that I envy your drive and courage to seek out your passions. In my first post about the reading, I talked a lot about how I simply followed the mold I felt I was supposed to stay in and took very little risks in my life, and now I feel too old and scared to take risks like you have and still seem to do.

Once again, Nesdon, you have written an excellent post full of imagery and great points. Thank you!

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  4. I love the juxtaposition in your comments between one-buttock and half-assed. Too funny. Thanks for sharing your journey into stepping away from the safe path and trying to follow your dream. It would seem that it didn’t bring you to the place that you were hoping and that shades your disposition. Great comments about the Freight & Salvage open-mic nights, as an amateur musician I can appreciate the idea of playing beyond one’s talent via the passion for the music. Technical proficiency can be impressive, but it’s what the musician(s) communicate of themselves that makes all the difference.

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