Saturday, November 27, 2010

Maui Is Alive! - Nov. 2010

There have been two places in my life where I've felt "home".  One is Boulder, Colorado and the other is Maui, Hawaii.   I've only lived on Maui for two and a half years but I can honestly say that it calls on and nurtures my soul like no other place I've ever been to.

But the funny thing is that it's not because of it's beautiful beaches, perfect temperature and gentle breezes.   It's not because of the great tasting healthy food, the welcoming vibe and diverse culture.   It's also not because of the amazing snorkeling, ocean activities or hiking.   It's not even because of it's awesome yoga classes and unsurpassed sunsets! Its because Maui is alive! That's right! Because the "life force" or "mana" (as they call it here on Maui) is rich, vibrant and alive, breathing inspiration, health and well-being into everyone and everything that lives here. The "mana" surrounds these islands and ocean like a blanket of loving creative life energy. I also like to refer to is as "The Aloha".

The word "Aloha" is NOT the Hawaiian way of saying "Hello" or "Good-bye" or "Fare-Well" which is how the average dictionary defines it. If you talk to some of the local Hawaiians or to my friend, Richard DeLeon, Hawaiian Kahuna, Herbalist (direct descendent of the last Hawaiian King Kamehameha), he'll tell you that Aloha means "unconditional love" or "the common breath of life that we all share". Aloha is an energy field that pervades these amazingly beautiful islands. When I first moved here I quickly started to draw the distinction of whether I was being "in" the Aloha or "outside of" the Aloha. Being "outside" of the Aloha felt like I was a separate individual going about my day fulfilling my personal needs, goals and desires. Probably how most of us relate to life on a daily basis. Being "in" the Aloha feels like moving with and through an energy field that connects all of us together in an environment of mutual awareness, interdependency and support. Life is a vital network of energies and beings, connected and pulsating within a common reality and experience. And as you can imagine, the difference of experience of being "in" and "outside" of the Aloha, is NOT subtle.

"Aloha" is NOT a concept created in the minds of the first Hawaiians a thousand years ago.   "Aloha" is a very palpable, tangible experience that is available to everyone that spends time in Hawaii.   In my experience it is an energy that not only exists, but thrives, transforms and heals on these islands.   It is akin to "the force" or to "grace". And again, it is NOT subtle.  It feels like being very present.   It feels like being loved by nature and being connected to and part of the environment.   The air takes on a quality of thickness and substance where you feel it connecting you by it's touch to the distant hills and the clouds. The water takes on the attributes of silk and softness and becomes even more "alive".  It is the experience of being part of something greater than ourselves and transcendent of our separate egos. And if you're already good at doing that, then being on Maui just fuels the fire that much more and invites in an even greater opportunity to take you on a journey you've never had before. Beyond your imagination.   It almost sounds too good to be true, right?   Almost unbelievable, right?   Well it IS unbelievable. Even inconceivable . . . by the mind!   

I think that at one time the energy known here as "the Aloha" existed everywhere on the planet. People tell me "well of course you like hanging out in paradise".  And yes, this IS paradise.   But the whole world was once paradise. I feel that this is what life was meant to be like. Like "paradise". And the more we built square houses, and power lines and highways and polluted the skies and waters . . . the less paradise it became. And as we undermine, obstruct and pollute "the natural world" not only do we "harm the environment", but we also dampen the presence of the energy that I'm talking about and numb our abilities to experience the "force" or "mana" of nature. Of "our" nature. On Maui, the Natural world is still the predominant force and presence here. And there are less and less places on the planet that you can say that about.    The skies are clear, the waters clean, the sealife is vibrant and healthy and the land is fertile and bountiful.    The recent volcanoes here still vibrate with the primal raw life force of creation.    And, for the most part, the people that live here know and respect the fact that there is no separation between the well-being, health and vitality of humanity and of Mother Earth.   We are one.

I've created a yearly Maui Event. It's about my desire to share the experience that has truly changed my life in many ways. I've designed this Maui Event to support and nurture you from all sides while addressing all of your senses. Starting with your luxury accommodations at the elegant Four Seasons Resort. To beginning your day right with some quality time with your Self. You can choose from a little morning yoga on the beach or a leisurely stroll or Jacuzzi; followed by some time in the healing waters of Maui.   Kayak or paddle board and let's take a closer look at these amazing humpback whales.   Or let's just snorkel a bit along the beautiful reef along Wailea Beach or Turtle Town.   Our excursions to interesting sacred, natural and historic sites and towns are entertaining, educational and stimulating. The food is nothing less than world-class and extraordinary BUT nothing compares to ending your day with a glass of wine on the beach watching the sun go down. Maui sunsets are world famous. People line up along the beaches an hour before as if they're going to the premier of the summer's long anticipated blockbuster drive-in movie.    However, you'll soon realize that the true blessing and gift of Maui is to be felt from within. It is a very real opportunity to experience the unexplainable. The unthinkable gift. The unspeakable shift.  We have the opportunity to breath in and be present within the Aloha of Hawaii, of life, mana in its purest form.

Maui reminds us that life IS a miracle.  Not in some abstract philosophical or religious sense, but in a real life tangible experience that we can all partake in. The way life was originally designed and created to be.   An effortless yet profound miracle. With every breeze, every scent, every warm touch of the sun, every breath you take, every move you make, every step you take, I'll be watching you . . . Oh, sorry, that's a Sting song.   I love Maui. Can you tell?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Creativity: Inspiration or Emptiness?

Strange title, I'll admit. But I wanted to talk about one of my favorite subjects . . . Creative Process. I think it's safe to say that many artists get caught up in the idea of being "creative". The idea that we have to "do" something to access our creativity, or we have to "be" something or "try" to be creative. It's an easy trap to fall into.

In my experience, true creativity is more of a result of "undoing" rather than doing.
"True" creativity comes, initially, from an empty place or a void. I don't mean "emptiness" like something that is lacking. I'm talking more about a womb or fertile place. An undefined place of "possibility". I don't really think there is an accurate word for it because it is a place that exists prior to any kind of definition. It exists prior to any kind of creativity. I think the best way is to describe it as some kind of Void. However the void, in and of itself, is no more than an Invitation for creativity.

I learned a long time ago that, in performance, if I'm not having an experience, then the audience isn't either. So, how does one "plan" on spontaneously having an inspired experience? In the mid-1980's I used to do a 3 day water fast before every one of my larger concerts. And during those 3 days I'd do lots of meditating, Tai Chi and centering before each show and then I'd do the concert while fasting. I wanted to be a clear channel for as much energy from the Universe to pour through me, into my piano and out to the audience as possible. But I quickly got tired of all the "prep" work and decided that I didn't want such a huge distinction between my more "ordinary" daily life and my "special" creative life. I was tiring of the distinction between the sacred and the mundane and realized that it was separation that I was creating and that it really wasn't necessary or even a true reality.

After many years of "working on it" through various techniques, therapies and practices I feel that I've, to a large degree, integrated my creative life into my entire life and at this point my music grows as I grow, whether it's me doing the dishes or laundry; walking on the beach, writing a blog or recording in my studio. I'm almost always involved in my creative process. My life IS my practice. I DO still have certain activities or practices that I feel nurture my more "expanded" or "spiritual" self more than other activities, but they are more like reminders throughout my day rather than a real departure from my normal routine. Some of the practices are ones of re-membrance that I can do during any other activity I'm involved with and other practices are more involved like my yoga practice or my love for sitting and seriously focusing on the sunset for an hour or two. Basically, it's all about "emptying". Stripping down the layers of thought, identity, desire, expectation and judgement until what's eventually left is just "being". Just "listening". And when we get to a place of truly being able to "listen" (because we're not filled up with all our thoughts and ideas of what things should look and feel like) then, finally . . . we've just sent an Invitation out to the Universe. In fact, the Universe (or God) is always seeking us. We just need to learn how to listen and allow access. Actually, recently I'm also noticing that there is a way of "seeing" that is very powerful as well and completely aligned with what I'm talking about regarding "listening".

In my experience, the Universe, God, the Creator, the All that IS, loves to fill us with it's energy. It can't help but to fill up a Void. We're usually generating so much of our own thoughts, concerns, expectations, desires and judgements that there's literally NO room for divine inspiration. I'm serious. True creativity only comes when a welcoming (open, empty, void) space is created. However, emptying ourselves of all that "extra" stuff that we usually think IS "us", is often challenging and sometimes confronting. Sometimes in stripping away the layers we need to let go certain believes or associations that we've taken comfort in for a long time. These are both positive AND negative identifications. Sometimes we need to feel things we'd rather avoid, like sadness, loss or fear of various kinds. These things take up our inner "space or Void" and interfere with truly being "present". But after we feel and release the concepts, wounds or pain that occupy our inner sanctum, the Universe rushes in and fills us with it's energy. That's why we feel so good after some kind of emotional or cathartic release.

And when I come to the piano to play, perform, write or record, I try and empty myself first, then I play a note or a short phrase that is an expression of how I really feel at that moment. If I feel good, then I play "I feel good". If I feel nervous and insecure then I play "nervous and insecure". And then I listen to what I just played and then I respond to that in an honest, whole hearted way with another musical phrase. Then I listen to that and so on. I never try to mislead or lie to my piano or to my audience. I always start exactly where I really am. If I don't play from where I really am then how can I be present? If I'm pretending to feel good and confident when I'm not, then I'm deceiving my audience and not being honest with my self or my instrument. I'm not aligning my Self with what IS. If I DO start from and express from where I am, for better or worse, then I know it'll change. The "moment" always transforms into something else. It never stays the same. If I'm honest and expressing mySelf truthfully then I can align mySelf and music with the present moment. It feels literally like dropping into "the moment". And in the present moment there's all the energy and all the creativity of the entire Universe. It's like being swept away by a huge current that I can only keep up with if I continue to stay present and not think about it, not define it or categorize it in any way. And that's always so much more interesting and moving than what I could ever bring to the table on my own.

And don't forget, a key element to any relationship with the Universe/God or one's creative muse, is a healthy dose of humility and an awareness that this all really IS a mystery . . . a miracle that will never really be understood by our rational minds through words and explanations. There's so much more to this way of approaching life and creativity. I'm writing a book to discuss the process and journey in much more detail and to provide tangible exercises to facilitate an experience of what I'm talking about. But for now, this is just a little blog to share some of my thoughts. Please feel free to comment or ask questions. This is one of my favorite subjects. Thanks for reading!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

My New Album - Call Of Love

I'm very excited to announce the release my newest album, CALL OF LOVE. I honestly can't tell you how many records I've recorded. But the great thing is that even after years and years and recordings and recordings, I am, at this point in my life and career, more in love with music than ever. Making and recording music is all about the process. Yes, it eventually leads to a tangible outcome, like a CD or score for film. BUT the best part is the process. From having an idea or melody for a song, to flushing it out on the piano; to seeing how it evolves and changes as I work on it and nurture it; to recording it; having other musicians add their support and ideas to the song; mixing the album (often my favorite part); naming and packaging and then finally releasing it and planning some marketing. I love every step. And the interesting thing is that "love" is so much a part of the process that if I don't literally "fall in love" with every song on the album, then that song doesn't make it. For me making music is all about "love".

That's one of the reasons why "Call Of Love" is such an appropriate title for this album. What the title, "Call Of Love", means to me is that every day, every hour, every minute we're making decisions and choices that affect our present, our day, our year and ultimately the rest of our lives. Whether it's choosing what to have for lunch; or how to communicate to a friend or loved one about something important; or how to react to an event or situation that crosses our path unexpectedly . . . choosing "love" is always one of the options for us to choose. Every day we make thousands of decisions that ultimately add up to the overall quality of our life experience. I believe that the more often we choose "love", not only will our experience be better, but our contribution to our family, friends, community and world will be of a greater and more meaningful impact.

Now, this is not always the easiest choice. In fact, it often appears to be the most confronting. But just the awareness of it as the best option IS life-changing in and of itself. The World calls to us from many different perspectives and attitudes. The World has an amazing momentum and pace that is often overwhelming. The World tells us that we need "this", and should work for "that" and what's "better" and "cooler" BUT the World almost NEVER tells us what will bring us the most peace, contentment, joy and love in our lives. That's why it is SO very important to listen so closely for the Call Of Love. The Call that some part of us recognizes as the "true" and "pure" sound. That we recognize comes from a deeper place within our selves. The one that brings us closer to the home, life experience, contentment and the love that we truly desire most, beyond all else. I hope it doesn't sound to "out there" BUT that IS the inspiration for this album. The awareness that we have a choice every second to answer to a deeper call from within.

Now, on a more tangible note . . . let me tell you a little about how this album evolved and let's take a look at each song individually and see what I can tell you about it.

1. Call Of Love - I wrote the main melody for this song for a series of PSA's that Pierce Brosnan was making to "Save The Whales". The International Whaling Commission was considering lifting the "ban on whaling" because of pressure from countries like Japan and Iceland. A combination of efforts from organizations like Greenpeace and individuals like Pierce upheld the ban so that for at least another 15 years or so, the Whales are relatively safe from "legal" whale hunting although they are still under threat by "illegal" whale hunting. Nonetheless, it inspired this song. I really love Paul McCandless's oboe solo in the middle of the song and Jaques playing is always spot on.

2. Breath Of Life - I wrote this song with Dominic Miller in mind. I knew his acoustic guitar would really shine on this song. When Paul McCandless put down his beautiful oboe part it added this sweet longing to the song. And I'm sucker for "sweet longing". Mixing this song was a bit challenging because of all the layered guitar parts a couple minutes into it. The cello adds such an important element as well. The "hook" that happens in two places on the song where it goes from an F major to an F#minor repeatedly gives it this auspicious/otherworldly quality for just a few seconds. That's one of my favorite parts. This could be my favorite song on the album. I'm already planning on recording a solo piano version of it for a future project because the solo piano version is very different and interesting. Much different from this version.

3. Song Of My Heart - This song used to have a minute long mellow intro with just cello and guitar, but I wound up removing it because I thought it was too long to wait before the song "kicked" into it's groove. This is probably the jazziest song on the record, but it's still not really jazz. I actually wrote this song with Jaques in mind, playing the cello melody the 2nd half of the song. Paul's soprano sax added a really nice color and energy.

4. Everlasting Waltz - This is another song that will show up again on a future album probably as a solo piano version. This version is "in time" and sound more structured as a result. But there is a very moody "out of time" version lurking within me and I'm looking forward to playing with that. I think the oboe and cello sound particularly beautiful on this song.

5. Here For You - This, for me, is the "surprise" song on the album and leans the most towards pop instrumental or some unknown category. I've never been easily categorized. The piano does some interesting things with "time" on this track. I often "let my fingers do the walking" and just play what feels good to my hands. This song is perfect example of my hands just having fun. When I recorded Paul playing his soprano sax it took the song to a new place. His equally uncategorizeable style really comes through in this song. Is he playing "pop", "classical" or "jazz"? Answer: none of the above. He's playing his own unique self. Yeah Paul!!! I love what he does in the latter part of the song where he gets more punctuated and "staccato". This song makes me happy cause it's so "me".

6. In Every Life - Funny thing about this song is that when I'm not really paying attention I like it more. If my mind is wandering and this song comes up, I'm like . . . "Oh, that's nice . . . what is that?". But if I'm listening to closely I start thinking "There's really only two sections and I'm just repeating them in different octaves". Well, maybe that's all it needs to be? I've included it on the record in a short form because I really like the melody, it sounds good and it's satisfying to play. Plus it's my album and I can do whatever I want. Right?

7. A Tale To Tell - I kind see this as the "sleeper" song on the album. It's just very sweet and satisfying. A little blue. I find the textures really satisfying. The acoustic guitar especially. This is one of the those melodies that just came out of me completely intact and very specifically. It doesn't have the "build" that is so common in my music. It's stays pretty even throughout. Sometimes that's hard for me to.

8. My Beloved - To me this sounds like an old Celtic love song. The penny whistle really adds to that feeling. I really like that the piano plays a main melody and counter melody at the same time. Definitely sounds like a love song to me, maybe a little bit of unrequited love and a little melancholy, but I like that as well. I also think it sets up the next song very well.

9. Fields Of Gold - I love this song. One of my favorite Sting songs. Dominic played on the original. I thought it was very cool that he was into recording it with me. I think he's only played it with Sting and I (I could be wrong) and that's very cool. I tried adding some penny whistle to it to add to the "old Irish ballad" feel, but it wasn't happening, seemed to distract too much from the heart of the song. I love Dominic's playing, the simplicity, the great tone, the restraint. I've learned a lot from playing with him on and off for the last couple years. Thanks Dominic!

10. Each Moment - This is Jaque's favorite song on the album. I think it's because of the ever evolving chord changes and melody growing over the top. I like it because of the "timelessness" in the playing. Meaning . . . it like moves through honey in some places and slides along in others. Sounds romantic to me.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August 2010 "On The Road with Nawang Khechog"

It had been years since I'd seen my friend, Tibetan Flutist, Nawang Khechog. I had heard of his near fatal traffic accident in India two years ago through mutual friends and was very upset by it. He was mostly out of communication because of either being outside the US or when he got back, was recovering and literally completely withdrawing from any contact from the outside world. Then I heard about his heart attack and more health complications. At this point I'd had enough and I contacted him and insisted that he stop putting me through so much and cease this untimely romance with death. It was too soon from him to leave and I didn't appreciate the stress he was causing me with constantly being hospitalized etc. LOL. We talked briefly and he returned to his home in Boulder to continue his healing process. Then about 5 months ago I contacted him again and proposed we do a little concert tour together to spend some time and make some music. He liked the idea and felt for the first time since his traumatic last couple years that he was ready for a little road adventure and some quality time with his good friend.

Nawang and I had recorded our Dance Of Innocents album sometime in the mid to late 1990's. It was the only record we recorded together and since then had only performed a few concerts together. But they were good ones. Carnegie Hall in NYC, JFK Stadium in Washington DC and some other smaller venues around Colorado like Chautauqua Park Auditorium in Boulder. I don't think either of us really knew what to expect musically when we got together and were more looking forward to some quality time together since there was a degree of uncertainty around the future. By the time we got together a few weeks ago in Southern California, we hadn't seen each other in about 7 to 8 years.

I definitely noticed considerable growth in Nawang both musically and personally. It was a pleasure for me to be around someone that truly does his best to "walk his talk". Nawang's "Be Kind To Each Other" slogan is his daily practice as well. I watched him everyday practice his teaching in every way possible. Never saying a harsh word about any one . . . always looking for the best possible explanation putting everything and everyone in the best possible light. I've worked with many "indigenous" or culturally specific musicians over the years and was not always thrilled with the person behind the image or facade. And at this time in my life I simply don't want to deal with personal "contradictions" of that nature. So, to be with Nawang for a couple weeks, concert after concert, on the road was a welcome and affirming experience.

The tour wasn't very long really. Only 10 concerts in about 14 days. A few in California, a few on the East Coast and several in Colorado. Each concert was a little more of "getting to know you" musically and the following day was a little more "getting to know you" as a human being as we'd drive to and from airports, hotels and sound checks. We'd chuckle to ourselves when the curb side baggage checkin person recognized our names on our drivers licenses and said how they just listened to our music last night and we were very moved by the great feedback we'd receive night after night from the people that would talk with us after the concerts. And we'd both acknowlede afterwards, driving back to our hotel or to the next gig that it truly was truly a gift and honor to be able to facilitate "meaningful" experiences in others by the music that came through us. We'd have conversations about the meaning of "essence" or "true nature" for us individually and for Nawang as a follower of the Dalai Lama. And we'd wonder at the beautiful planet that we live on (especially in traveling through Colorado).

I think for both of us there was very little distinction between the music we played at night and the personal exchanges we'd have driving to and from the airports, hotels and venues. Nawang and I are brothers from different cultures and mothers. I think we recognized that early on in our meeting some 16 or 17 years ago and there are just a small handful of men in my life that I can say that about and it's really nice to spend some time with them on occasion. We're planning on doing some concerts in Hawaii this fall perhaps and maybe some more in other places as well. Nawang is releasing a book this winter about his "Be Kind" workshops and is working on a film about this life. He walked as a small boy of only 3 years old from Tibet to Dharam Sala India with his family some 50 something years ago. He's lived a diverse and interesting life and continues to follow the path of his spiritual unfoldment. It is a pleasure and an honor Nawang to be your friend and share music with you! Here's to your Long Life!! You can read more about Nawang and his music on his website . Thanks for reading! WIth Love, Peter

Saturday, June 12, 2010

June 2010 Unreasonable Happiness

"Unreasonable Happiness" has been one of my favorite terms since I first heard it many years ago. There are two things main things that I like about it. One is that it immediately got me thinking about how most of the time there are "reasons" to be happy or not happy. And the Second is the questioning of "where does happiness really come from". To explore the concept or possibility of experiencing happiness for now apparent or tangible "reason" is very liberating. And I've actually spent a fair amount of time working with this idea. Funny thing is that the subtle "unreasonable" reasons to be happy start becoming more and more tangible. Like "I feel happy just because I feel good". Or "I'm happy because I'm in touch with my Self" of "because I'm feeling connected to something larger than my ego". It takes the emphasis off of circumstances in a huge way. A couple other of favorite phrases are "Losing your mind and coming to your senses" and "No matter where you go, there you are".

There's been a lot going on in the world (and my world) for many months now and things seem to be moving so fast that I've had a hard time being able to focus on just one subject for a blog and have, as a result, started and stopped writing many blogs over the last few months. With the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico and President Obama's administration thinking about loosening the moratorium on Whale hunting for countries like Japan, Iceland and Finland finding my sense of "unreasonable happiness" has been a bit trying lately. With events and issues like this close to my heart on the table it's sometimes hard to feel good. Negativity, fear and blame have never furthered any good cause but I DO think it's important to discover why these kinds of things happen and understand how they could be prevented so that they never ever happen again.

How does one find the balance between doing one's part to co-create a healthy and balanced future for our children and at the same time find the necessary peace and joy in one's daily life? Perhaps I just answered my own question. In first finding the peace, presence and joy of my inner experience I am then prepared to create or initiate change in my environment and world. Does anything really positive come from feeling bad? I know I'm sometimes sick to my stomach about what's going on in the Gulf of Mexico. And the thought of seeing my beloved whale friends harpooned and cut into pieces makes me nauseous and angry as well. But can I really function effectively and clearly from that place of pain and anger? No, I can't.

I find more and more in my life that regardless of what's going on externally, my inner and personal experience has it's own life and reality. I can be in a terrible mood for one reason or another, often a really good reason, and then go do yoga for 90 minutes and my entire mood and perspective has shifted to a very positive and present one without anything changing in my circumstantial world. I can also be having a great day for hours and hours and then suddenly a thought enters my mind and my whole mood and enthusiasm for the day collapses around me.
Is it possible to effectively deal with overwhelming world and environmental events from a place of centered inner peace? Can one feel empathy and compassion for all the many creatures and situations pleading for help and care while not losing the awareness and experience of the perfect chaos of this world? Yes and yes!

Actually I see this as my main mission or objective in this life. It all begins with my relationship with my Self and my Essence (or God, Universe, the Force, All That Is) then my relationship with my family and friends, my music, my work, my activism, and so on. It's as complicated as "how to bring balance and peace to the world" and as simple as "how to take my next breath". It's as mysterious as trying to comprehend the origins and depth of the Universe and as plain as holding a door open for someone or picking up a cigarette butt from the sand on the beach. It's as daunting as "how to bring my music to as many people in the world as possible" and as intimate as softly, gently playing just one note on the piano and letting it ring in it's glory as I intently, patiently listen until the last whispering shimmer of it's overtones have become inaudible to my ear.

Alright . . . enough waxing philosophic. Right now I'm in California. Been here for almost 2 weeks. It's been cold in CA and cloudy too. Missing Maui quite a bit but happy to be furthering my career and getting my music out there. Having meetings in LA with film people letting everyone know that I'm really into scoring for film, ready and available to work, and making some new friends in the process. Doing about 13 concerts in the next month or so between California, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina. Many of which are with my long time friend, Tibetan Flutist, Nawang Khechog. We haven't performed together in many years and this is the first little tour he's made since dealing with some very serious health issues over the last couple years. I've got a few solo gigs, some at New Thought churches and others at concert halls. Visiting with family and old friends and doing my best to stay in touch with my Self.

I'll write another blog from the road in the next few weeks. Check out the new updates and tour schedule on my website .

Wishing you all the very best,