Discourse on Method: Zenón Style

Today is Leap Day!

It's also the day that I took my first lesson of the semester with Miguel Zénon, and walking out of the lesson I had a few thoughts.

It was apparent to me that Miguel stressed fundamentals during his lesson—long tones, scales, and scale patterns. He described to me his conception of four "mother scales"—four scales that give a jazz musician the essential content of musical discourse.

This approach reminded me of Descartes in Discourse on Method, in which Descartes sets forth a system of thought in which several key principles underpin the entirety of his intellectual explorations:

"I believed that the following four rules would be sufficient for me:

The first was never to accept anything as true that I did not plainly know to be such...

The second, to divide each of the difficulties I would examine into as many parts as possible and as was required in order better to resolve them...

The third, to conduct my thoughts in an orderly fashion, by commencing with those objects that are simplest and easiest to know, in order to ascend little by little, as by degrees, to the knowledge of the most composite things...

And the last, everywhere to make enumerations so complete and reviews so general that I was assured of having omitted nothing."

I don't know if Miguel has consciously referred to Descartes in devising his own approach to studying music, but I think it makes intuitive sense to take this "back-to-basics" approach—albeit, something that students like me tend to forget in the midst of taking classes and constantly trying to learn, analyze, and apply more complex ideas taught here. It would make sense that one of the best saxophone players in the world became one of the best saxophone players in the world by taking such a simple, thorough, but also thoroughly challenging approach to learning his instrument. If Descartes became one of the greatest thinkers of his time this way, then there's no reason why Miguel wouldn't become one of the best players of his time this way.

Also, I've heard friends and others talk about Jeremy Lin's fundamentals—again, Descartes was there first, but Lin's picked up "the method," and it's clearly working for him! Hopefully I'll have the diligence to do the same and get my fundamentals together.