Music & The 8BC System

The Unofficial Guide
to the 13 Nia Principles
~ Practical, Nia-or-Not Applications for EveryBody

(Wondering what in the world the Unofficial Guide is and why I’m writing this series of posts? Click here!)

P3 music-thinking

Principle 3 – Music and the 8BC System

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

“Music is the festive dress of silence.” – Chamalu (my teacher Carlos’s teacher)

When we began, we wanted to create Nia in a way that addressed the entire human being – body, mind, emotions and spirit. We view Nia through the triad of Music, Movement and Magic. Music is the canvas upon which the body moves. Magic is what happens inside you. We do not divide Nia into 33.3% music, 33.3% movement and 33.3% magic. Rather, each is 100% valued. When you masterfully connect music and movement, magic is created.

The 8BC System is a notation system used in Nia to become intimate with the structure and flow of the music we use. By intimately knowing your music, you are free to teach rather than count and your music becomes a resource to create a powerful experience. The 8BC system is the roadmap you use to visually format the structure and landmarks of your music and choreography.

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

“Dance is the festive dress of stillness.” – Susan (based on Chamalu)

Teen-aged me loved sprawling on the living room floor in a sea of album covers and liner notes, memorizing lyrics, listening for the guitar solo, feeling the intricacies of the beat. This music-crazy part of me was rekindled when I started teaching Nia and using the 8BC system to map music. If given half a chance, I will wax rhapsodic about this genius method of creating a visual map of sound. (A genius method, I should point out, that I resisted stubbornly for two years.) If you’re interested, I’d love to tell you all about it, but pack a lunch. Once I get going, it takes a while to stop me.

Fascinating and functional as the 8BC system is, as a practitioner it’s less important to use the 8BCs and more important to put the essence of this principle into practice. Principle 3 is about using the state of Relaxed, Alert and Waiting to listen to the details, silence and sound in music – the music that is everywhere.

At the core of Principle 3 is the practice of RAW – Relaxed, Alert and Waiting. In Nia, we first use RAW for listening to music: a relaxed body with upright spine, an alert mind without preference, and a waiting spirit allowing for whatever may happen in the sound.

Unofficially, the state of RAW is powerfully practical whether you teach Nia or not. RAW is meditative and centering and applicable to any situation in which you want to be fully present.

Since learning to be RAW when mapping music for Nia class, I now use it whenever I step in to teach, in any important conversation, or when working on a creative project. The state of RAW integrates body, mind and spirit and in this way is a healthy and balanced foundation any time I want to hear all the details in the universal music around me.

In the Unofficial Guide, we can use Principle 3 as a reminder that music is everywhere. There is music in weather and nature, in cities and traffic, and in people, always in people. RAW gives us the space to listen deeply and attentively to whatever music is playing.

Right now, sit with a straight spine, take a breath and relax, get attentive and wait to see what you hear. Do you hear leaves rustling in the wind, dogs barking, the hum of air conditioning, traffic breathing on the road, conversation happening in the next room? As you listen, notice that sounds come and go. You don’t have to do anything about them. Notice when they start and when they end, notice the silences between them. Notice the details in the sounds: when volume shifts or tone changes. If you’re having a conversation with someone, notice what they are saying when they stop speaking. Notice when their voice sounds tight and when it sounds relaxed regardless of the words they are using.

Music is everywhere. Principle 3 gives us the practice of RAW to listen deeply and allow that music to play through our bodies, minds, emotions and spirits.

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