I love breathing.
I love how cold air feels coming into my nose and I love how on a warm humid evening the air feels soft in my body.
I love that I can turn a simple breath into a quiet space of personal calm. I love that my breath powers me when I run. I love that I can breathe with intention to start a piece of music or breathe rhythmically to cement my body to the ground as I draw an arrow back in a bow or breathe deeply to find my center and connect to my intuition.
Stringed instruments are amazing, and I admire people who have studied and practiced and worked for years to make pieces of lifeless wood really come alive and sing. But to make music with your breath is another element of intimacy. It makes the whole thing seem more human.
People frequently comment on my lung capacity after a solo performance. They ask about how I practice breathing, and say that I must work out, and are amazed that I can play phrases as long as I do. In part, this is an oboe thing. We use less actual air than almost any other wind instrument, due to the tiny opening of the reed, and playing long phrases and occasionally circular breathing to cheat to the end are easy oboe tricks. To an extent I laugh off these comments and politely brush them aside because I would rather talk about my programming or my scripting or my musical interpretations. Those are the things that are hard.
But deep within myself I love my air. I love that oxygen refreshes and nourishes me. I love that – even though I’m running less than I once did – I have cardiovascular strength and can play long phrases and climb stairs. I love being at the top of my form and harnessing my air to make music in a way that the twenty-year-old me could only catch brief glimpses of. I love having mastery over my body and my air.
Theres a magic there. I’m still discovering ways to use it. Last week’s orchestra concert featured terrible chairs. Gorgeous music, but dreadful chairs, to the point that an hour into the rehearsal I had to be very conscious lest I slide down into the pit of the chair and slump and cease to support and to breathe. And the Schubert Mass in Ab is as gorgeous as it can be, but it moves abruptly sometimes from easy to very exposed and delicate and I needed to constantly remind myself to USE my air instead of obsessing about my mouth. More air, less mouth is nearly always the answer.
This piece of writing poured out of me in the middle of the week, late at night, and at first it didn’t seem like something I could actually publish. No real point, no real teachable moment. But it’s kept nudging me, and I think I’ve found the point which is gratitude. I am so happy and thankful that my body works the way it does, and that I can make my living in the way I do, and that air is a thing that exists.
Breathing is a blessing. And I am grateful for it.