I'm fascinated by the daily rituals of other artists. The painters who get up at first light, whatever the season, the musicians who practice in hotel bathrooms to avoid complaints, and the writers who turn their daily craft into an act of disciplined service. More than the product, it's the process, and the commitment to that process, that becomes its own reward.
As Haruki Murakami said, "the repetition itself becomes the important thing."
For me, over the past 4 decades, playing the piano has come in and out of my daily routines. In my teens, I began to really discover the sounds and colours you could make, and it was hard to keep me away from the instrument. In my twenties I was playing as an accompanist for contemporary dance classes, and trying to keep the dancers on their feet in improvised 90 minute sessions. In the thirties and forties, the fast train of film and TV scoring seemed to steam over almost every other aspect of life, so any hope of a daily ritual that didn’t involve the work in front of me was fleeting at best. I’d try to play, or write, or meditate – anything to create some space in a day – but would find myself chasing deadline after deadline and rarely allowing myself the time to breathe.
A bit late in the day, 5 years ago we had the first of our two beautiful children. (Note to prospective parents: if you think it’s hard keeping a daily practice going now, just you wait … ). I had recorded an album of 30 daily piano improvisations in the summer before our daughter was born, which we called Diary, and, truthfully, both my partner and I have struggled since then to maintain anything approaching that ritual state. If you can’t reliably find time for a shower or a change of clothes, the chances of carving out time for either of us to write, do Morning Pages or meditate is slim.
“So, whether you diligently keep a written journal, take a morning walk with the dog, or cocoon yourself in your headphones on the journey home from work, this project is from me to you.”
I’ll be going live on Instagram for the last few minutes of my newly re-established daily piano practice, to share a daily improvisation with anyone who cares to be in the moment together. As a composer who works with extraordinary performers regularly in the studio, I’m very aware that this isn’t about virtuosity or display. It’s about the daily ritual. And I invite you to join me in whatever daily ritual you can forge for yourself. The rewards, although sometimes slow in coming, are deep and true.
With love, Michael