Sunday, July 31, 2016

Excerpt from Matthew's Latest Book, "Inner Harmony: Personal Exploration at the Piano"


Purchase at Amazon

The Swiss analytic psychologist Carl Gustav Jung described life with a metaphor of the sun. In the first half of life, as the sun rises, we rise in empowerment through gathering; experiences, education, resources, and friends. The focus during the first half of life is on obtaining. At high-noon, what he called the midlife, it is not uncommon to find a switch from the outward gaze to inward reflection. Jung taught that this transition into the second half of life, the sunset, was marked by an increased interest in spirituality, art, and introspection. It is in this midlife that we take inventory of where we have been, where we are at, and where we are going. Whereas the first half of life was marked by accumulation, the second half of life is characterized by dissemination. By the second half of life we have accumulated the resources, experiences, and knowledge needed to nurture the next generation. “Life,” Jung said, “really does begin at forty.”

During the sunrise of my life I chose to accumulate knowledge in music, artistic creativity, philosophy, and psychology. I studied music at renowned conservatories in New York and Brussels, Belgium. I began teaching private music lessons when I completed my studies in Belgium, and I have never stopped. I did not, however, pursue a career in musical performance. I became interested in psychology and philosophy and have spent the past fifteen years studying and teaching in those areas. I had gone  back to college at the age of 25, having toured the world as a classical musician, and completed a bachelor's degree in psychology. I then completed graduate studies in depth psychology and philosophy. Finally, I earned a doctorate in interdisciplinary studies.

Over the past twenty years I have found that music and psychology are complementary endeavors. Much of the wisdom that I have learned from reading Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, as well as C. G. Jung and many others, was informed by music and art. Over time I have found that my studies in psychology have influenced my music teaching, and my studies in music have influenced my psychology teaching. A new piano student once remarked, “You are a psychologist who teaches music?” “Well,” I replied, “I think that I am more of a musician who happens to teach psychology.” I really don't know where one field ends and the other begins, but I do know that they both enrich each other, as they enrich my life.

I soon found that private music lessons, that weekly, hourly time spent one-on-one with another person, had striking similarities to psychotherapy. The relationship that formed between student and teacher often grew into a sort of bond that is characteristic of both the master-apprentice and the psychotherapeutic relationships. My reading and practice in psychotherapy was often complementary to my music teaching. I strongly believe that my study and experience in psychology and philosophy has made me a better music teacher. I have also found that much personal, spiritual, as well as artistic growth could take place in the music lesson –without the unnecessary (and potentially negative) label of “psychotherapy”. I remain convinced that spirituality, character, and artistry are intimately interwoven.

I have found over the years that some of my students’ parents, those in the high-noon of their own lives, discover a newly aroused curiosity about music-making. As Jung predicted, it is not uncommon to find, shortly after their young child begins music lessons, parents inquiring about taking lessons as well. I have also come to believe that the parents find a renewed interest in music when they see how much their children are enjoying lessons. In contrast to the often torturous lessons which some of them experienced in their youth, conducted by schoolmarmish authoritarians who were more interested in cultivating discipline than joyful music-making, their children are having fun! This casts fresh light on piano lessons for many parents, who are right at the age when Jung said the spiritual need emerges.

I wrote this series of books for those who want to play the piano from a deeply personal and spiritual, growth oriented place. It is my feeling that music can be a profound and effective instrument for the personal growth, catharsis, and wellbeing needs that arise in middle age. I am convinced of this from the biographies I have read of our most celebrated heroes in science, art, and philosophy; many of whom were practicing musicians. I am convinced of it by the examples I have seen in my musical friends, family, and students. I am convinced of this from the pages of psychology and philosophy of music that I have read. But mostly, I am convinced of this power because I have experienced it personally.

In this volume I will share with you a way of making music for yourself. The intention that I have in writing this series of books is very simple: to provide you with the tools you will need to sit down at the piano and make music for self-discovery, spiritual growth, and catharsis. I want to share with you the gift of truly meaningful music-making.
I have written this book in a way that will teach you the practical tools for making music at the piano, as well as insights into the human condition made by philosophers, artists, and psychologists. This is not a book for those whose ambitions are to impress others, inflate the ego, or worship at the altar of discipline. From my perspective, these are all misuses of music.
This book will provide you with the tools with to make expressive and cathartic music by yourself and with others, while prompting you to take careful consideration of your personal and spiritual wellbeing.

In this first volume we will learn a method for self-exploration at the piano. We will discover the architecture of the keyboard, as well as of music, and how to begin exploring and expressing ourselves through music. We will do this through introductory thoughts of music and life, as well as through exercises and experiments both at the piano and away. I encourage you to keep a journal carefully documenting your experiences with these exercises and thoughts. My hope is that the ideas I offer will prompt ideas of your own to manifest. After all, many aspects of life are not a one-size-fits-all experience.

After hearing details about the psychological powers of music from a psychoanalytically oriented, virtuoso pianist, C.G. Jung stated, “ opens up new avenues of research I'd never even dreamed of. I feel from now on music should be an essential part of every analysis”. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer also knew the power of music and making music, which for him possessed a non-verbal wisdom:

“The composer reveals the innermost nature of the world, and expresses the profoundest wisdom in a language that his reasoning faculty does not understand, just as a magnetic somnambulist gives information about things of which she has no conception when she is awake. Therefore in the composer, more than in any other artist, the man is entirely separate and distinct from the artist.”

I hope that this book, and the subsequent volumes, will lead you to further exploration of the people and ideas that I present, as well as a template for inner reflection and personal growth. I know of no greater path to ourselves and others than that of music.