Straight Shooter

"doin all that I can"

I always say…

“if you want to know how your music is landing, watch how people dance to it.”

For me - and I wish it was this way for more people - music is fundamentally a physical experience. It's movement.

Pay zero attention to what other musicians say about it, because what musicians might hear with their heads and hearts a dancer will hear with their entire body.

(Goes without saying: if no one is dancing then you have some work to do.)

But there's also movement *within* the music.

I experience movement inside of the Bach cello suites, so much that if I'm ever picking up a new instrument (cello, guitar, bass or piano or whatever) the first thing I do is play a bit of Bach on it.

And not because I like the music either, I'm actually kind of tired of it by now. But that's where my music muscle memory lives so here we go.

That's the place to connect the well-established moves I already know to these new movements my body will need to execute on a new rig. I make the links while fishing for the inherent sounds in the object.

It takes time, but a sense of musical gestures and movement is where it starts for me.

When I get those happening, the rest of the music follows.

Love to your ears,





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Adventure on the bridge


There's an adventurous outer life of pursuing music which most of us can imagine, and some of us are lucky enough to do.

On the surface it consists of creating a sound that goes the distance and then sending it over that distance by touring, performing, recording and broadcasting it, in person or remotely through licensing and recognition. The “dream”

(If the sound is great enough, folks don't even need to hear it. They can just think about it. Like if I put the word "Prince" on the page you start hearing him in your head.


A public musician's life seems like a great life, and parts of it can be.

But there's also an adventurous inner life of the music maker. And unlike the outer musical life with its many distractions and barriers to entry, the inner musical life is available to everyone.

Participation can be as simple as allowing your sound to happen.

Sonny Rollins famously took a sabbatical from performing from 1959-1961, during which his music and his sound deepened greatly. He wasn't helplessly lacking recognition or opportunities at the time. Far from it. But the inner music was calling to him and he knew he had no choice but to leave the stage and go in pursuit.

So he stood in the middle of the Williamsburg Bridge and practiced, and day by day his artistry slowly evolved from the existing greatness into the titanic stature we still witness so many decades later.

Sonny is one of America's musical heroes and he still walks among us.

For me, the story of Sonny's seclusion is a musical equivalent of Ali-Foreman, Billie Jean King's Battle Of The Sexes or the moon landings. The hero must pass through isolation and some deprivation in order to connect with the greatness heretofore unknown.

It's something rarely found out on the road, if ever.

And it's available at your fingertips right now.






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the cultivation of small delightful actions


song: “Natalie” by XVSK (Trevor Exter & John Morgan Kimock)

press play above or listen here.

When I play one note, it’s a simple action with some part of my body that generates sound, and I'm instantly delighted.

To play one note is delight. Do I need the world, an audience, to hear it?


Obviously the presence of an audience amplifies and multiplies the delight, but the delight in its purest form already exists independently.

Practice is the cultivation of these small delightful actions in quantity and order: creating and inhabiting patterns of delight.

We smooth out our movements: a sour note here, a lopsided rhythm there... we feed our attention and love into the ongoing action and the rest takes care of itself.

We must remember to breathe. And not to judge, only shape.

(Shaping it allows for more delight, judging cuts it off at the neck.)

Connect to the delight, and protect that connection with your life. God speaks through our bodies and the audience shows up to witness.

Sometimes you’ll break a string.

See you again next Wednesday.






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Power is just a by-product

the morning after

Hi! I’m a day late. (Did you miss me?)

In this issue:

  1. a practice play-by-play

  2. a link to a link-fest.

Worthy of the work

This life of creativity (which is all life) is not about freedom.

It's about energy.

Power is just a by-product, and in lucky moments of consciousness we can put aside our worries for the future of the world and just experience music, simply as energy. What precious moments these are.

Lofty enough, Trev?

But in practice, the music emerging from my fingertips has always baffled me. It first comes out in a raw state, but it ripens as I work on it.

The sound starts forming into a song, and shortly I get to an alarming crossroads:

"It's starting to sound pretty good, Trev. Now, will you be worthy of it?"

And then bam.

Seriousness descends over the proceedings and I get frightened.

That's right, frightened of the music. Because it's entirely possible that I will let the music down. It's totally happened before, in fact it’s what usually happens.

Will I be worthy of the work?

Part of me is actually afraid to play well, because my ego can't take the heat!

The music is better than me.

Because here I am, judging. Juggling nostalgia for a more innocent time with concerns about power and freedom while this music just shows up, accidentally excellent and I was too distracted to assemble an audience for it in time.

Worthiness in this case would mean reliability, participation, respect, showing up for others.

Things that don't lend themselves easily to whimsy or nostalgia.

In other words, "freedom" isn't really free in a musical sense either.

So I feed more energy into the sound and it roars back to life.

I listen, and am grateful.

And I promise again to keep showing up.




Trouble staying in touch with the world?

Me too. This piece from has generously assembled a nice long 3D skim so you can briefly feel futuristic (i.e. present) and then get back to what you were doing:



Thanks for your countenance here. I’m still getting settled here in LA and looking forward to connecting with more my west coast readers - hit reply!

I just LOVE some of the notes I’ve been getting since the move:

“As I'm sure you're aware, life and living is WAY different out here.  Public transit is not the common way of getting around, neighbors and neighborhoods are separated by canyons and fences/gates, and the earth below you may move strangely once in a while.  But there's also mostly good weather to be had year round, good food (yes, I know, but NYC!), and a variety of vibes to choose from depending on your mood.  The first friends you encounter/make will more than likely NOT be native Californians but transplants like me, and you.

I'm looking forward to seeing how your move informs your art, and wish you happy times and prolific creative output.


Thank you Robert!

See you again next Wednesday.






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A guy inside my head


The move, part 2 with musical reflections

[press play]

song: “Hudson”

[music & lyrics c. Trevor Exter - all rights reserved]

got a guy inside my head who doesn't like me

can't stand my type, my band, my sign

but you seem to handle me just fine

I've got the wings, just need the wheels

show me something

something that'll make me feel

I seek to belong but also to control. I want delight but also health. Tension much?

I want to feel safe but also powerful, so cello is the perfect instrument for me because you know it's never gonna go perfectly.

I got a love the size of the sun

that could boil the ocean

rose above I've not, no prizes won

see I'm just one

your mind is a window, body is the sky

can't live without the one

without the other you won't ask why

We do the long tones to make the sound warm and fluid. I've also been dusting off my bounce matrix - that thing is hard to execute in real time.

Honestly, most of my practicing is to address my own feelings, an effort to feel safe in the face of potential mistakes and to make a compelling (i.e. powerful) sound.

We forget that the cello drill is not taught so that we can feel good, but so that we can do the cello job.

But what if...

why keep it to yourself

can't be someone else

don't keep it to yourself

talk is cheap inside a shell

What if, when we played the cello we got to feel the way a listener wants to feel when they hear the cello?

(warm, emotional, thrilled)

What if we could benefit from our own musical medicine?

I got a g-d follows me around, saving my hide

though I tried slippin away

you know it ain't fake tonight

here in this house of love

got to do things right

some day I'll run clear in the light

That's my goal, which partly explains why I've done so little performing lately. Not only is cello hard and awkward to play, but booking and promoting gigs can often run counter to the real work of music, which among other things is healing.

why keep it to yourself

can't be someone else

don't keep it to yourself

talk is cheap inside a shell

In order to heal a listener, the musician has to first heal themselves. And I've been engaged in some deep healing of late.

But the songs are about ready to burst.

They've been doing their job for me, so I'm starting to think about trying them out on you.

I'm looking forward to a release (it's still very far away).

But I will be booking a show soon.


Thanks for all your notes last week. Big ups, keep em coming.






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