Excerpt from Fred Ho’s Diary of a Radical Cancer Warrior: Fighting Cancer and Capitalism at the Cellular Level.
My sax playing is very strong, even stronger than before I entered surgery. After surgery, my diaphragm had to heal before I could play again. But now I play with a lot more power and control. This stems from the breathing exercises I’ve been doing, but also from the development of my CHI energy. I basically have out grown everything made for the bari sax. There isn’t a big enough mouthpiece commercially made for me. I need reeds harder/stronger than the #5, the hardest commercially made. I play the horn now like a double-reed instrument, barely touching the reed with my embouchure. From the power of my breath alone, I can make it vibrate without touching it. My fingers have molded the ivory and brass to fit my hands. I have actually altered metal from years of my touch. It is truly man over metal. I have also discovered some very Daoist revelations:
The point of developing technique is to have NO technique;
The point of practicing and mastery is to develop CHI so that music can change the world (both social and natural);
I want my sound to bring down the walls of Jericho, to be a biblical-like force to crush the walls of poverty, exploitation and oppression;
I want to be as a soloist more powerfully expressive and convicted than a 70-piece professional orchestra; and to improvise as great as a sophisticated, complex notated score;
I want to have a band that is telepathic, taking what is notated on the written page to a higher level of expression beyond what even I as the composer-leader could ever imagine.
The war against cancer has brought about this transformation, revelation and application on my part. I have been tremendously humbled by this war and at the same time learned to fight on a cellular level and to apply a cellular approach to the technical, emotional, creative and spiritual challenges of making music. The cells of one’s sound is what is supreme, infusing one’s breath or CHI-energy to that cellular vibration of making one’s sound a life-force.”
Probably the MOST important transformation for me is to never harbor envy, jealously, competitiveness, to speak the truth (even if it is very critical of friends and loved ones, but to do so without comparison and always with compassion), to know that should I die soon, I will be happy and satisfied with what I’ve done, and to spend not an iota of energy of mine worrying or despondent about my condition (tho to take it seriously and fight with all of my being to win the war against cancer), but to devote my energy both in my personal war against cancer, but as a friend to all of you, to make us all better in our journeys as emotional, creative and intellectual beings on this planet.
1 Fred Ho during rehearsal
2 Fred Ho with Jeff Milarsky and the orchestra