Sir Colin Davis is an amazing character, but he became even more compelling when I heard him say, in response to comment about his calm and “suppleness” as a conductor, “It may have something to do with the fact that I sleep with my Alexander Technique teacher.” He was referring to his wife Shamsi Davis, who passed away in 2010. Davis made this remark in a radio interview with Christopher Lydon from 2008, in which they discuss many aspects of music-making, but only after a chat about the Alexander Technique and its benefits for musicians.
Davis was introduced to the Alexander Technique when he was 28 years old. As he recollects it, “An English conductor came to my concert and said, ‘Oh young man, you’ll be a cripple if you go on like that. I’ll send you to someone.’” Davis began taking Alexander Technique lessons, and is now (in his 80s) known for his poise and grace as a conductor.
Davis sums up the Technique beautifully by saying, “The interesting thing about the Alexander Technique is…you let things happen. If you start doing things, you’ll screw up.” Later in the interview he comments on having the freedom to play the music, and to really hear the music. He observes that orchestra musicians have a difficult life, are “constantly on trial,” and a tense conductor only makes things worse. We can make the most beautiful music possible by not “doing things.”