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  • Writer's picturet.seguritan.abalos

When you can play flute, but the world is burning

"I just came with a desire because I felt like I was suffocating"

~ Dannielle Brown, a mother currently on day 18 hunger strike in Pittsburgh to demand that Duquesne University allow an independent investigation of the death of her son, 21-year-old Marquis Jaylen Brown, in 2018, & to demand university police reform.


In this segment of "Behind the scenes," I practice a phrase from "Ahesta Bero," a traditional Afghan song I learned for Khūrakī. Haunting, it captures a bit of how I feel thinking about what's happening in my city — from Ms. Brown going on hunger strike for her dead son, to the blazing heat in which a homeless man asked me for money in the parking lot today.

For ways to support Ms. Brown, click here.

After "Ahesta Bero," I play a "sound doodle" based on Nathalie Joachim's version of "Papa Loko," a traditional Haitian song. (Nathalie's rendition is effervescent & will bring so much light into your day!)

These days, a lot of my "practicing" is not really practice. Alongside the necessary rounds of fundamentals & technique, it's more like "doodling" — experimenting with sound & phrasing by playing whatever comes to mind.

Today, what came to mind was "Ahesta Bero" and "Papa Loko."

A traditional wedding song, "Ahesta Bero" in Dari translates to "Walk slowly." Papa Loko is a Vodou spirit worshiped by the Taino tribe (indigenous people of Haiti).

For the first time in four years, I'm entering the fall without tightening my shoulders, bracing myself for the competitiveness of studying music performance in college. Instead, I'm inhaling a sense of expansiveness.

For the first time, I'm fully in charge of my musical growth. Letting loose of structure, my priorities are spontaneity, joy, & fluidity.

To be sure, spontaneity, joy, & fluidity won't get you a job in classical music. For that, you need bullet-proof technique, then a painstakingly-crafted agenda for expressive details.

Then why am I drawn to spontaneity? At the risk of sounding irresponsible, music was never about securing my future. Music is enlaced with the present moment. Creating something precious, powerful, out of the seconds spilling before you. For the seconds spilling before you.

For me, playing flute is a way to play with time.

Theresa Abalos. Flutist. Carnegie Mellon University class of 2020. School of Music.
In college, few things filled me with dread like recording myself. However, on this blog, I have fun sharing recordings of my playing — because the underlying motive is exploration & curiosity, not perfection. There's room to experiment, to try again, to make mistakes. (Photo by my dad. May 2020.)

What does this have to do with the need for me to build a "real" career (because I have fun working in customer service, but customer service isn't quite what I went to college for)? I have no concrete answers now, but I'm slowly unearthing possibilities in the realm of teaching artistry.

But in a world that is burning, in more than one sense of the word — are my thoughts about music even relevant?

Perhaps there's no adequate answer. On the relevance of music, I dive into that here. For now, I'm building my creative practice upon compassion, vulnerability, curiosity, and a desire to listen, in order to be more present to the humanity of others.


Hello there! Thank you for taking the time to read and/or listen!

If you find the content on my blog meaningful, please consider supporting my work on Patreon.

That way, I can continue to create all of this for free, while balancing part-time jobs to pay rent & student loans :)

Thank you for considering! Take care. ~ Theresa

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