Monday 24 December 2012

Pushing envelopes

I have been nervous playing music in front of an audience ever since I can remember.  I still vividly remember the terror of a school concert where, as a teenager, I played a Chopin waltz on the piano.

Since those times my working life often involved giving formal presentations to large audiences, and although I was nervous in the early days, my technique improved over time.  In the end, although I would sometimes get a bit nervous before presenting, this would never get in the way of a good result.   So it came as a surpirse (and a considerable disappointment) when, the first time I played my flute in front of an audience, the terror struck again.  I was shaking so much that my trembling jaw made its own, completely uncontrollable vibrato, and the overall result was, of course, a disaster.

In the grand scheme of things, not being able to play for an audience is not, at least for me personally, a big thing: it's not as if I'm ever going to be a professional musician.    But I find it frustrating not being able to share my love of a piece of music with a wider audience.  What's more, other people play in public without being reduced to gibbering wrecks, so it's clearly a personal, internal barrier that belongs to me.  So I set about trying to get rid of it.

I tried hypnotherapy, counselling, and above all, practice at getting out and playing.  The music school here is especially helpful, since they hold little informal concerts at the end of every term, and one is simply expected to play.  We have also hosted a couple of the flute courses run by the inspiring teacher Wissam Boustany here at Les Hallais.  Wissam is a firm believer in playing from memory, or "by heart" if you like, and the wonderful concert he held at the end of his recent course inspired me to go for it.

So here, warts and all, is my first ever renditiion of flute music, in front of an audience and from memory.  The rehearsal was better than the concert, and the video isn't really as good as the concert, but such is the way of things.  2 Romances, from Op94 by Schumann.  With thanks to Wissam and to Sandrine, the wonderful pianist.


the fly in the web said...


Well done, overcoming the demons!

Do you think it is because music matters to you that you seized up..whereas work was something you wanted to do well...but didn't have the same internal importance?

Mark In Mayenne said...

There's a whole bunch of things involved, and I can't really say that I've got to the bottom of it.

My terrifying school concert was a great success, even though I was extraordinarily nervous. However with a piano, there's a whole bunch of ironmongery between you and the audience, behind which nerves can be disguised or hidden. With a flute the whole sound comes from breath, which is intimately connected with one's state of being, and it's therefore much harder (impssible, I think) to disguise an underlying emotional state.

Secondly, for me at least, there's the issue of *this* performance being the one that matters; no matter how well I played it at home or in rehearsal before, this is the one that counts. This is coupled with the desire for perfection: if you don't practice for perfection, you never improve, it's one's ideaa of what is perfect that evolves as one gains expertise. So no only is this performance the one that counts, it has to be (or is upposed to be) perfect.

Then there is the emotional element, since playing a piece of music is essentially an emotional communication, and for me, emotional communication was never much of a feature of my early years, so it has been hard for me to communicate musically to strangers.

So there's a whole lot of things that represent the edges of the envelope, but I suspect that the fundamental one is learning to trust starngers with one's intimaate personal emotions. Next comes letting go of the desire for perfection, and letting the music speak for itself, even with mistakes.

Merry christmas!

James Higham said...

Now you have a worldwide audience!

Well done.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...