All posts by enjolis

Playing a Different Part of the Same Elephant

My Inner world was crying out so loud last night that my body could not relax enough to sleep. It wasn’t till I started preparing my breakfast that I began to connect with my Inner World enough to know that she was really hurting. She hadn’t stopped hurting after the few hours of sleep I eventually got.

It reminded me of the parent who is so preoccupied with working to put a roof over their heads, they forget to hold the child close to let them know how much they mean to them. Some of us are missing physical touch so much that it brings physical pain. Our Inner and Outer worlds need to touch like never before. We must do it ourselves.

In the channels of communication we have available to us, it appears that we each have not only different but opposing outer worlds. And yet I’m convinced that our Inner worlds are very similar to each other. Hermes Trismegistus said “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul.” This kinda implies that our Outer worlds are not only similar but the same. Maybe our collective Outer world is like the elephant in the room and we are all blind people thinking we know what the elephant is by just touching our little piece. 

When I improvise music with a group of people that I might not ever have played with before, the song we are creating reminds me of that elephant. Each of us plays a part of this living being and we each have a different perception of what we are creating. Each of us is putting extra attention on our personal contribution, so we see it from that perspective. For instance, I tend to think the ending to the song is coming sooner than other people think. I’m just playing a different part of the elephant. 

I would add to Hermes’ list, “as in music, so in life, as in life, so in music.” It seems to happen in music so much easier than in life. Maybe through practicing this kind of listening/sharing with music-making, we can learn to do it in “real life”. Maybe we can learn that the reason I see things differently than you is simply that I’m playing a different part of the same elephant. 

Be Full of Yourself

I often say that music and life are the same. What challenges us in music challenges us in life. Where you feel restoration in life gets reflected in your music. That is why I also say that music is the perfect laboratory to develop our life goals. The worst that can happen is that you play some wrong notes and even that is a good thing because that is how we learn. And it teaches us to dig the wrong notes we play in life. Many people know the old saying that if you play a wrong note, play it again and it’s called jazz. Well, trust me, I’ve used that technique over and over again. In fact, it has now become part of my style. And I try to teach myself to live a life of jazz. Whenever I make a mistake, I make it again and it really gets funky. 

So now that we are in a major worldwide shift, I think it is a good time to make use of the music/life connection. After centuries of being taught that selfishness is what drives the marketplace, it’s getting so habitual, that we have trouble seeing through it to true humanity. That’s why during this time, when I see people being generous, it brings me to tears. Now that our lives depend on generosity, it’s like relearning to ride a bicycle. We’re a little wobbly at first, but it really does come back even after centuries of neglect. It’s who we are after all. 

There are many ways to practice generosity in our music. One good start is to give your music fully. Did you know that amongst the mountains and trees, we are considered the “Musical Animal?” Crows are the smart ones. But we’re the ones that use Music to align ourselves together in groups. It’s how we unify. If we forget that we are an organism together, Music gets us right back on track. Again, it’s who we are. 

This is how Matthew Fox says it. ” A time of shock and loss and trauma is very often a time for music—and poetry and dance and clay and painting and gardening and all the others forms of art as meditation.  With these practices we can pour our grief and sadness, anger and loss, that not only relieve our own souls but reach out to others’ hearts and souls as well.  Music and the other arts bear witness to how we are not alone”.

So, to take a chance and give your musical self to the community is a generous gift. If you think you’re not musical, it might even be a bigger gift, because it inspires others to take chances too. Share your genius. Brian Eno said, and I paraphrase, genius is a community phenomenon. We are so used to pedestalizing the individual, that we don’t notice the community from which it springs. He says that he is a beneficiary of this misconception. What this does for me is give me permission to let my genius shine, knowing that I’m not alone and I don’t have to protect it.

Then there is the listening. It’s the most important role to play in a musical group. And it seems to come easier for “non-musicians.”  “Musicians” have a lot to learn from “non-musicians.” Before the quarantine, I was doing workshops in a recovery center. One of the clients would sit quietly and knit and not sing or play. We were arranging a song one of the women had written. The knitter finally spoke up and said that I was singing the background part too loud. It was getting in the way of the lead. So I quieted way down and the song was transformed. All the other parts became stronger and the words stood out. It turned out that the person quietly knitting had the most to offer the whole group.

This is a time for listening. Listen to the nurses on the front lines. Listen to people losing their jobs. Listen to the marginalized communities in which they live.

And be full of yourself. The self is the container for the self. Be large in your genius. We need you now more than ever.

Wanted: Genius

One thing that Covid 19 is making abundantly clear to me is that just as a virus can cause unforeseen panic, death, and destruction, there are viruses that build communities. One example is the Artistic Expression Virus or what I call Artex 20. 

Another thing that is becoming abundantly clear to me is that we each have our own personal genius but it needs community to really thrive and multiply. When you think of all the famous game changing geniuses, we always want to hear the story of how they grew out of our society. And we see that the fruition of their genius was always dependent on societal conditions. It’s hard to access your genius when you’re working three jobs and you’re worried about your kids’ future. 

One of my favorite rockstars, Brian Eno said that genius comes from the community. The individual is really just the spokesperson and our society separates them out and because we are so infatuated with the individual, we can’t even see where the genius actually comes from. He said that he is one of the beneficiaries of that thing. (I’m sure I’m paraphrasing to the point where I’m making him say more of what I believe than what he said. But I found his talk very inspiring) 

The mission of comMUSIKey is foster hotbeds of genius in our communities. If there ever was a time for genius it is now.

I have prepared a web page that has links to various online resources that I am exploring.

Every Wednesday from 5 to 7 pm pacific time we will spend some time together with these resources and sharing each others’ genius.

Meeting ID: 843 792 4381

comMUSIKey Theme Song

We will be videotaping the recording of comMUSIKey’s theme song pretty soon. It will be just vocals. And anyone can take part, even if you don’t think of yourself as a singer. Once you sing with a group it’s hard to not see yourself as a singer. Here’s the demo if you want to learn it. We will try it out informally this Sunday June 7th at 6 pm at comMUSIKey. Leave a comment if you want to participate.


If you click the link below you can see and download the score or you can right-click on the image to get different choices.ComMUSUKey Theme Song

ComMUSUKey Theme Song

Beethoven’s Gift

Here is a quote from Ludwig Van Beethoven as interpreted into English by Corinne Heline in her book ‘Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies – Correlated with the Nine Spiritual Mysteries’.

“I have no friend. I must live alone; but I know that in my heart God is nearer to me than in others. I approach him without fear, I have always known him. Neither am I anxious of my music, which no adverse fate can overtake, and which will free him who understands it from the misery which afflicts others.”

My interpretation from English into my own inner language is that Beethoven was willing to access the terrifying wonders of the universe and bring them to any earthbound person willing to listen and be healed. Very Christlike of him.

So what is required of any of us to attain these heights and spread the love? Do we need to be musical geniuses or we can we just keep it simple and true?

I’m willing to see what happens with anyone who’s willing to try.

Recording Faultline

I had a wonderful experience lately, recording the trio Faultline. They are Yohan Glidden on guitar and lead vocals, Cozzy Bohrman on bass and vocals, and True Borhman on drums and vocals. These guys were amazing, recording two of their own songs plus Sunshine of Your Love in just a few hours. They are all in their teens and had never been in a studio before. I was really impressed with how they just came in a did it without nitpicking little things, just capturing their essential sound. That’s really hard for even very experienced studio musicians to do. Here are their two original songs.



To See the End

Everybody’s a Performer and What I Learned About That

You might know that performing has always been my greatest teacher. Performing is kind of like looking at yourself inside a jeweler’s loupe, the audience being the loupe.  Last January 15, three of us comMUSIKats went up to Flagstaff to present our idea for a workshop called “Everybody’s a Performer” where I had the chance to see details of myself I never knew existed.

And the funny thing is that THAT was the point of our presentation, learning about ourselves through performance. I learned that I don’t follow a script too well, particularly if it needs to finish as I watch the timer count down from 6 minutes to zero. I learned that I am truly an improvisor who needs to connect with the audience. The three of us learned of many nuts and bolts that could have made the presentation get across our idea in a very compelling way. But the main thing I learned for myself is that it’s OK to bomb. In fact it might be the best way to learn.

Here is the script that we crafted, which had I delivered as well as I pictured, would have, I believe, garnered ourselves a healthy grant.

(call and response) comMUSIKey… Music is the Key… To community

Hi I’m Jonathan Best, although when I first went to Kenya to work with the Maasai communities I discovered that they didn’t have a word for best in their language so they changed my last name to Sidai Pii which means Completely Good. And because I see music in everybody, maybe we should all change our last names to Osingolio Pii which means Completely Musical.

That would be a dream come true because the mission of comMUSIKey is to build community through all inclusive music making. And that begs the question, what is the community we want to build. I want an all inclusive community where every culture and every person has a voice. where we all listen to each other across whatever divide we have in our minds.

I consider listening to be the most important skill in building community AND making music.

What if, by fostering life skills within a musical group we are actually building community? What if all the skills we develop in our life contribute to our musicality and vice versa? And finally, were we all born musical? When you walk you got rhythm, when you talk you got singin’. Try extending some of your words the next time you talk. (singing)You’ll hear yourself singing. Close your eyes and imagine that your entire body is made of musical vibrations. If it was quiet enough in this room you could hear your blood pumping through your arteries in rhythm.

Our vision for this project is to invite as many people as we can from as many divergent populations as we can into a special room where there is no judgment. No auditions. Everyone is welcome. We want all cultures, including all musical cultures. We want classical music lovers playing with beatboxers. And we will collaborate using techniques in singing, songwriting, improvisation, and everything musical. We will then break into smaller groups to workshop these techniques over an 8 week period culminating in a performance to the general public. We will videotape select pieces of the workshop and make a video to promote comMUSIKey, gain funding for future projects, but most of all, inspire the entire world to make all inclusive music.

On my first trip to Maasailand, I was greeted by an entire village in what may be the most memorable performance of my life. They paraded around us with dance and song until we were completely enveloped in polyrhythmic harmonies coming from every angle. And not a single one of them was a professional musician. They were just singing their lives. And then they invited us to join in. And we sang into the night. That’s what I want to do in this country.

On my return from that trip I went straight into a four year program called Music for People where I learned how to facilitate music with diverse groups of people. What I discovered is that we in the US have just as much music inside us as the Maasai. It just needs to be encouraged. And this is what our project is all about.

I want to thank the Arizona Commission on the Arts for planting the seed of thinking outrageously. It enabled us to think beyond our normal boundaries to what we really believe in. This is what art is all about. It creates quantum leaps to places we’ve never been before.

We will do this project no matter what funding we get. And then we will broadcast it to the world. And we will keep broadcasting until everybody is making music at every gathering, whether it be in the kitchen or at a barn raising.

So I invite you in creating a 79 note chord in celebration of inclusive art in all its forms. Open your mouth and let the air fill your body, and on my cue let out whatever ooh sound your body wants to make. Take a breath whenever you want and let your sound evolve as you look around and listen. Every one of your voices is creating community. Now let that sound be outrageous, move your body and now we have to STOP(cue). Thank you for that little taste of community music and for listening.