There’s an internet meme going around my social media network at the moment, and it’s being shared by musicians from all backgrounds and interests. It’s common thread seems to touch us all at the root of a nerve:
This one hits right in at me. My performing life has been defined through the suffering of performance anxiety because of the expectation to play correctly always. Now, I gleefully remind myself that it doesn’t matter if I play a wrong note because it’s my own music, and I can (as the saying goes) play it again three more times and it will be correct. Oh - that’s jazz. Well, same thing.
There’s something deeper at play here, though. Audiences want to FEEL - and in a way they can’t otherwise. Music forges a superhighway to the heart strings and can bring to light submerged feelings and thoughts we would otherwise be unawares of. We all know this - and is one of the reasons we love music.
But when I play my original music, my perfection brain is in full control. I judge my own performance based on my ability to recreate a song perfectly as I intended it. I acknowledge that my training as a classical violinist has established this framework for me, and it is a tricky one to change.
I was shocked recently when I gave an average performance and yet a friend had to leave the room full of emotion. What a contradiction - that the music I was delivering in ’reproduction’ mode had enough power on its own to affect someone so deeply. There is clearly as much transference into the performance from the audience as the performer, which we feel as performers when we really smash a passage or note, the audience’s excitement is almost tangible.
So, how can performers get their audience to always feel when they perform? We’ve seen it done badly or in poor taste (the scantily clad violinists that flaunt their wares while playing Paganini), and appealing to basic instinct is the cheapest way to get your message across. Is your message worth getting across if that’s what you are appealing to?
I think the answer lies in being as genuine as you can be - telling the absolute, raw truth of your own emotions and life in a broad way that can be understood by a crowd. Let them escape in your story, your emotion and your unique perspective on life.
Leonard’s Cohen ‘Anthem’ does this for me. I covered it for my #recomposed series last week and just loved singing it. I love the line 'There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in' - a live performance may never be perfect, but it will be filled with light, love and truth.
What do you think?