When speaking, you speak in phrases.
If you take a phrase like, “Don’t you know what I want?”, by putting the stress on different words, it starts to take on different meanings – in fact you can repeat that 6 word question 6 times, stressing a different word each time, and you have 6 slightly different sentences.
If you then apply different emotions to the same words, saying it, for example, in a sad, laughing, amused, angry, aggressive, or bored way and you have more ‘meanings’.
Altering the speed at which you say the whole sentence changes it slightly yet again, and saying one part of the sentence slower than another part (e.g. “Don’t you know …what …I …mean?” alters it yet again.
These are aspects of language that we all do automatically and we’re very skilled at it; little thought is required, we’re highly practised because we’re always speaking.
The same has to be true for other aspects of our lives, speech is not the only way of expressing ourselves. Artists, dancers and craftsmen have their way, and musicians have a way that perhaps is closest to speech because it involves sound.
Music & Tai Chi.
One of the most difficult things to teach is interpretation. First of all it requires that the practitioner has the same skill with the subject (tai chi, art, carpentry, music) as he has with his own voice and use of language. This takes a great deal of time and patience – it takes us years to learn to speak well.
In music, most people never get beyond the stage of being able to play the notes, (perhaps in carpentry this translates as ‘make a basic shape with a piece of wood’, or in tai chi ‘remember which move follows which in a routine’, or with poetry recitation, ‘learn the words of the poem to be recited’), because the next stage requires interpretation, which comes out of confidence in the underlying basic skill.
Intention & Interpretation.
Your intention defines what you are trying to say, whether in movement, sound, wood, clay, stone, metal, or speech. For example, when talking, you have an intention – you are expressing an idea or a thought which will promote further thoughts or actions; it’s not an aimless jumble of words that comes out of you without any idea of what you’re trying to express.
In music, the composer’s intention is to guide your emotions via a musical phrase (possibly melodic, harmonic, or by the use of orchestration). With music which is only ever recorded, i.e. most rock or pop music (with some exceptions, and generally people only want a repeat of how it sounded when recorded), this is a fixed event; no other interpretation is available (except for cover versions). However in both classical and jazz music, after the original written version is produced, interpretation starts to play a very important role.
Interpretation is the ‘living’ part of whatever you say or do. It defines the meaning and can be instantly changed mid-flow to fit the situation of that precise moment. Some might argue that it is the actual connection with Life itself; it is you being completely ‘in the moment’.
Tai Chi & Interpretation.
In music, as you play a piece, and in particular when you improvise, whatever you feel is produced through your fingers. The attached video clip has similarities to conducting.
In tai chi, the same is true, although the expression of the movement comes out through the entire body (arguably the same with music). So if you are feeling joyful, tense, lethargic, calm, angry, sad, aggressive, bored, tired, or fed up, this will show in the outer movements.
In tai chi you are attempting to be ‘open’ and allow the universe to be expressed through you (as in music and all the Arts, in fact the same is probably true for the sciences and… well, everything). Is this concept – i.e. your being a vessel of the universe’s expression – a conflict with the idea of interpretation? Probably not; maybe the fact that it’s coming through an individualised human being is a bit like the shape of a clay pot being enhanced by a particular glaze?
James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan on one Saturday a month.
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308