7 January 2006

Up at 6:45. Retreat atmosphere but more relaxed (and a later start). Morning sitting, 30 minutes. To one friend who was doing it for the first time it felt like a day.

Back in the circle, the exercise of circulation – a fascinating musical experience as notes fly round the circle, each one ‘receiving’ a note from his neighbour and playing a note to ‘pass’ to the next. Quite beautiful at times, and the tuning is rich and sonorous. It’s hard to sound bad with it, even for complete beginners (and there’s one guy who’d never played a guitar before). There are more women than I expected in the groups, some of them very accomplished guitarists. It’s far from being all love and light – we were dismissed twice by our instructor for not being in tune. He just said ‘how long will you need to tune your guitars? Ten minutes? I’ll see you then.’

On the notice board among the ‘rules’:

Other people will irritate you. Don’t worry, you’ll be irritating them.

More sessions of guitar with rather long gaps between, for personal practice. Every corner of the house has someone sitting or standing intent on a metronome. Also some old-fashioned jams, especially in our room.

Alexander Technique session to ease some of the tension caused by such intensive guitaring, and the specific postures we’re told to adopt for left and right hands.

After the evening circle we remain in our seats and develop a nice theme from an idea played by the Iranian woman in the group. We don’t talk about it, just listen and play. More listening, less playing. Bed around midnight.