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June 6, 2015: Mark Weidenaar wrote David with the following question:

How does your knowledge of consciousness impact the music you write, and how do you feel your music has evolved along with your own personal journey?

David responded as follows:

Your question is pretty much all-inclusive! Not so easy to get at, but I will try to give some ideas. I don’t think of music as depicting consciousness but as a manifestation of it. Music is not “about” consciousness, but the thing itself in sound. When I am working with performers I might use images and stories to give them a personal context, but fundamentally and persistently I am giving them permission to allow the full value of each musical element. The permission idea is a really important one. I can give them the safe place to open themselves fully. Ideally this is what conductors do. It takes a centered sense of self, and a developed musical imagination. The key issue here is that each musical moment can and must be actively imagined by the conductor, and through that, consciously opened in the players. Much music making is relatively passive, without full conscious engagement by the performers. You can get okay performances, but it will be the happy and relatively rare accident when real heat shows up.

The question of consciousness and its relationship to my musical evolution is too large to be talked about in a few sentences, but here are some thoughts. You ask about its relationship to spiritual/esoteric beliefs. I would have to say that the whole thing is more about direct experience than belief. Experience does foster belief, and over time a workable world view, but this is constantly evolving with new experience. The core of it has been the development of a way to enter into and explore my own unconscious mind. The psychologist, Carl Jung, refers to this as “active imagining.” I can recommend two books of his: Man and His Symbols, and Memories, Dreams, Reflections. If you know my composition, A Child’s Garden of Dreams, it is based on dream material presented by Jung in Man and His Symbols. The second book is his autobiography. It’s not about events, people and places, but an unfolding of the development of his own deep awareness. In any case, over the past nearly 40 years I have been actively journeying in the unconscious, and have found the immediate relationship of my personal space to a larger consciousness. This is the energy that we call creativity. I have been able actively to engage it, rather than hoping that inspiration will hit. The result is that I now feel somewhat like a channel. I can be more or less open without expectation of what’s going to happen. And the result of that is that I am constantly surprised by what happens. I tell people that I couldn’t possibly make this stuff up on my own. I wouldn’t know how or why. So there is now an internal partnership, a deep sense of support, rather than feeling alone and isolated in my own mind. I think working in music fosters some inkling of all this in everyone who is composer, performer, or teacher. The difference for me, if there is a difference, is that I have been working persistently for a long time to make all these connections conscious. I am given to this way of being and trust it completely.

There is a talent for this, like there is a talent for music or art or math. There are very few people who don’t respond in some way to music, so I would say that every human being has a contact with, and a talent for, spiritual experience and development. What I have talked about above is the basis for powerful work in every field, not just artistic creation. There are many books to look at, and once you start exploring, a lot will come to hand. One other book that I will recommend is The Courage to Create by Rollo May. I came across this book a long time ago, and have reread it maybe a half dozen times over the years.

Do you have questions or thoughts for David? Please write to him from the Contact page. He loves hearing from you!