So there's a name for it, I suspected as much. What I didn't realize is that it's a well known psychological phenomenon. It's called flow.
This is the state that I seek, the state that I haven't the skill to achieve in anything but music. Oh, I've felt it riding my bike, and a couple of times back when I fenced, but music is where it happens the most consistently and the most profoundly.
I'm not sure it's a good thing to know what to call it. I'm relentlessly curious and now I'm going to have to look into it. It might help, I could get some good tips on how to achieve it. But it might make it harder too. Conscious thought is the enemy of flow and the more I have to think about, well, the more I think. Truly, my head is a cement mixer, all restless and churny when on the go and setting up hard when at rest. No in-between.
What I really want to know is the connection, if any, between the flow state and the meditative state. The obvious difference being that in a flow state the body is active, but what about the mind? Interesting.
The bike fest gig, it seems so long ago now, went well enough. I had a great time at least. K wasn't really enjoying it though. The settings on his bass amp got messed up in transit and he struggled through the first couple of tunes trying to get it sounding right. Years ago I took some whiteout and marked my settings for just this eventuality, I'll have to suggest it. He also broke a string. This doesn't happen often with bass guitars, those strings are pretty thick. He also broke the one he replaced it with which is frankly weird. It might be he was nervous and over tightened it or there could be something wrong with that bass. Whatever, it really threw him.
Eventually he got going again with the wrong gauge string used as a temporary substitute. This was the point the gig got really fun. Despite the chaos I wasn't really uptight and as we got started again the band struggled. In the past I'd let such things get to me to the point of derailing my own performance. Not this time. I laid back and listened as we slipped in and out of time, dropping into the pocket* and falling out over and over. It was like listening to a car warming up on a cold winter's morning, running rough then steady in slowly inverting proportions.
The thing that had me grinning like a dope fiend was that I knew it was going to be ok. I could feel it from the band, we'd been here before, struggling and disjointed and everyone knew we'd get past it. What's more, we managed to convey that feeling to each other as we played. It really was astounding. I don't believe in telepathy or any of that sort of mumbo-jumbo but I do believe in the human ability to gain meaning from the smallest of physical clues. I'm a pretty cynical and negative person so the absolute conviction I felt that it was all going to be ok was really, really great. If only I could feel such optimism at will.
The last half of our second set was as good as we've ever played in front of an audience. We were tight and energized and made such a glorious racket that it's a wonder that Apollo himself didn't show up to see what the fuss was about. Flow indeed, a veritable four branched river if I may be permitted another watery metaphor.
Oh, and the memorabilia? They sold as a group for $30. This still makes me laugh.
*An expression used in jazz to mean perfectly in time, especially of bass playing that is 'in the centre' of the beat, i.e. neither slightly leading, or ahead of, nor slightly behind, or dragging the beat. [I took this definition from a on-line music dictionary. While strictly true, I think that when you're deep in the pocket you're constantly and consciously making the choice to stay on the beat, push it or drag it as the tune demands rather than simply being perfectly centered all the time.]