Music, whole systems, whole self LO11686

Michael Erickson (
Mon, 6 Jan 1997 08:52:59 -0800 (PST)

Replying to LO11656 --

Re: Ray Evans Harrels comments:

On Sat, 4 Jan 1997, ray evans harrell wrote:
> > Michael Erickson ( said:
> > After dragging me into a local choir-and my resulting discovery that I
> > also have some facility for this sort of work, I've concluded that
> > music is an excellent "integrator" of mind function,
> I would just like to share a discussion that my wife heard on the bus
> between two New York City High School Teachers.
> They were discussing the problems of the present teenage boy "machismo"
> which puts the young girls in a position of being harassed by the boys.
> The other teacher was short and too the point. She simply said "teach the
> boys piano!" In my time this would have been equivalent to saying "give
> them silk underwear" but she went further. She said that the boys who
> studied piano learned to think in long term work procedures. That the
> development of focus on the intricate aural/physical/psychological tasks
> in a stressful performance situation in front of peers developed their
> confidence and made them less likely to "act out" in class as a result of
> that development. I find it interesting that the teacher made the
> assumption that all of that machismo was based upon fear and an inability
> to accomplish focus on a long term task as well as a problem of perceptual
> sufficiency. As Norman Mailer has pointed out on various occasions.
> These children have been trained from birth to think in ten minute
> segments in an intense visual perceptual mode and then have a commercial.
> Concentrating holistically for 45 minutes in a class must be hell.
> Ray Evans Harrell
> artistic director
> Magic Circle Chamber Opera of New York

I agree with the teacher-the piano may seem weak and consentration over 10
minutes might be like "hell" or less than manly to these guys, but that
only shows the height of their ignorance.

My only other suggestion is to teach these guys to rock and/or Ice climb.
In my teens I saw through the "macho" smoke screen early in the game, and
wouldn't play along. The consequence was to be assaulted into
unconciousness a number of times-to the point that I quit school (in the
10th grade)for fear that I wouldn't survive the next attack.

I can't say that I felt particularly safe in human society as a result, so
I turn to the wild places, and being that I live less than 40 miles from
Mount Rainier - an island of arctic ice nearly 3 miles high, I found
myself doing battle with myself on it's headwalls and Icefalls.

The result was similar to learning music. High performance Rock and Ice
climbing could be described as a cross between weightlifting and ballet,
both a high art, and a science.

Climbing requires intense concentration and committment, and while a lot
of attention has to be focused on engineering the safety equipment (belay
anchors, chock or ice screw placement, etc.) and navigation... There is
also the "feel" of the situation and the intuitive "knowing" that develops
whilst forging a route up something tall and scary.

They say "the mountain doesn't care". Nothing can put a testosterone
overdose into perspective faster than facing down an unexpected snowstorm,
dangling all night halfway up a wall-waiting for the sun or discovering
that no matter how strong you are, there is no way you can out "brute
force" the mountain. Climbers learn to win through finesse, patience and
hard thinking.

I once invited a gang banger (crip) to climb mount saint helens with us.
It was to be a long day climb. Nothing technical. He chickened out. He
preffered to hide behind his guns. More proof to me that the Machismo
driven type are really covering up serious internal terror. So many times
I've taken some hotshot on a climb and watched them wilt into incoherent
babbling when they discovered that their knowledge or strength was no
match for cold, high altitude and long vertical spaces below ones feet.
On any climb-from the local climbing wall to the himalayan expedition...
the real battle is within ones self. It seems that facing our own selves
is the darkest terror any of us can face-a thing to be avoided at all
costs. But it develops both the intuitive and logical mind... as well as
humbles to the point that we can begin to think about reality without all
the testosterone poisoning clowding the scene.

A side note: Many climber have discovered there is nothing better to
fight cold and wet conditions than silk long underwear. It's tough and
keeps you warm when it's wet. In the pacific northwest it's cold and wet
a lot. Hypothermia kills. I'll take silk underwear AND piano any day.

Thanks for the post Ray.


Michael Erickson <>

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