Most of you don't know that I studied Indian Classical Tabla drumming.Â You can hear me playing on a few of my Youtube videos, but don't go back and listen to them for that reason alone, because I never got especially good.Â I did, however, approach the study of Indian Classical music the way I approached everything in my twenties--that is, I practiced like crazy (four hours a day for several years).
In Indian music there is a virtuosoÂ rhythmic pattern which repeats three times called a tihai.Â Tihais can be long or short, they come in many different types and they are amazing to hear.Â But at the highest level, the level of the greatest musicians, there are actually only two types of tihais, ones from the heart and ones from the mind.
Both of these two types of tihais are improvised.Â Tihais from the mind blow you away with their perfect blend of structural precision and complexity.Â Tihais from the heart are more difficult for me to explain, they are more relational, emotional, and transcendent.
Zakir Hussein said that when he plays tihais he is actually making and seeing multi-dimensional geometric patterns in his mind.Â Ali Akbar Khan said that he is playing with pure light.
When we really play music, our mind is not on the notes, the time signatures, beats, or scales.Â When we really play musicÂ we want to express mood, sentiment, and emotion.Â It's not usually raw emotion either, it is what we might call a crystalline form of emotion--Emotion which has already been explored, plumbed, completed or even resolved.
One's mind must not be focused on the musical details of technique, composition, or if I understand the Indian master's explanations above correctly--our minds shouldn't be on the music either.
In music as in internal martial arts, one must separate jing and qi--the physicality from what animates it. Â