The Music Lesson

OK. This won’t be a music lesson per se, so calm down… :-)

The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music is actually a book by Victor Wooten. If you don’t  know who he is, he’s probably best recognized for his contributions as the bassist for the Flecktones (as in Bela Fleck and the Flecktones).

This is a great little book and it’s packed full of great thinking regarding our orientation to music. It’s a fun and quick read. I almost managed to get through it in one sitting… I probably would have, but I needed to get up the next morning for work! I don’t think my devouring this book was necessarily because it was “so short”. I think it was because I was so into it!

He lays out the story of meeting a man named Michael who shows up one day and enters into a coaching/mentoring (for lack of a better description… really need to read the book to understand) relationship with him. Together they explore ten fundamental elements of Music:

  1. Notes
  2. Articulation
  3. Technique
  4. Feel
  5. Dynamics
  6. Rhythm
  7. Tone
  8. Phrasing
  9. Space
  10. Listening

The rest of the book unfolds those ten elements through the story and how Victor came to “own” these. It’s funny, charming, sad (at times) and powerful all in one wrapper. Throughout the story things happen which could lead the reader to wonder whether this actually happened or this is something that was imagined (if for nothing else) for the sake of the story. Well, guess what — it doesn’t matter! It doesn’t diminish any of what Victor writes about in the book. I think that there is a lot to take away from this, if one is willing to be open and listen.

One could read it and dismiss it for any number of reasons:

  • “It’s just a great story, it’s not real
  • “You can’t do that stuff, this is a bunch of mystic hooey!”
  • “Those are merely the author’s theories, they’re not practical”
  • etc.

One could. But it wouldn’t be a smart thing to do. Why?

A few years after writing the book, Victor came out with a DVD set called Victor Wooten: Groove Workshop. The key thing to know about the DVD set is that he takes every bit of what he writes about in his book and brings it to life — making real music with real people. There are a number of examples where his interaction with the players enables them to alter/shift fundamentals of their playing in real time! Yes, I said real time. No “going back to the woodshed” and spending months/years addressing areas where “they need to improve”. Frankly, I thought it was worth the entire cost of the DVD to see this in action.

I think that his ideas are part of building an important foundation for an approach to and relationship with (the more important part, I think) Music. Indeed, from my perspective, I consider this to be an essential element for establishing a musicians orientation and should be considered as a core reference.

Finally, I’ll just offer to Victor my thanks for his efforts to see Music live. Nicely done, sir.

P.S. There a few other resources that I believe qualify for inclusion as core references. I’ll be addressing these in future postings.

September 9, 2009 · kengon · 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Music

2 Responses

  1. FooteMAN - September 9, 2009

    Which one was better, the book or the movie?

  2. kengon - September 10, 2009


    Y’know, I think that if I had to choose, I’d be in real trouble. I actually watched the video first and then read the book. Reading the book made the DVD more relevant, as I got some of the back story about Victor’s thinking on it. It was also great to see how without the book, there would probably not be a DVD.

    The thing that shines through in both of these is that he has a true gift for and an insight into Music that he wants to share with people. He does a good job of ensuring that there’s an opportunity for anyone to see something about their connection to Music and how that can be made whole. It’s both serious and entertaining at the same time.

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