A recent flute studio topic has been the concept of the performance process: 1. We prepare a work or works through in-depth study and preparation, imparting an interpretation based on skills and the intimate knowledge of a piece we've developed through deep investment (right?!), 2. We deliver it - we perform it for the audience, 3. The audience receives it . . . and then what? Is the process complete?
This brings to mind the old question of a tree falling in the forest....if no one attends the recital, will the performance matter, will it still be a true performance? What is at the heart of why we perform - to motivate us to produce a higher level of understanding and knowledge of a piece, to improve our skills....or to communicate, to connect with others? While I acknowledge I always learn so much through this process, I find the importance of sharing the music with the audience the greatest motivating factor. So - let's assume that this is our given, or where the performance process begins.
OK. so we have where this all starts. If the intention is to communicate, then let's consider that the audience has a responsibility as well. That may surprise you, but in order to fully receive this gift we must be completely engaged in the process and arrive at appreciation. I believe this is one of the best ways to celebrate live music, and possibly the only way to realistically preserve our field. This concept is particularly true for musicians: as an audience member, we hopefully keep an open mind and heart as we delve into this new world of repertoire, playing styles, and whatever the performers share with us that day. With this in mind I propose an additional step in the performance process: expressed appreciation, or acknowledgement of receiving the gift shared with us for that performance.
It takes just a few minutes, but continuing the cycle of communication has great meaning: greet the performer, ask a question, and thank them for sharing their time and ideas. These easy actions complete the cycle, keep the entire process authentically human, are excellent ways of learning new things and even networking, and remind us to appreciate this great gift we have in our lives - music....and the abilities to make, enjoy, experience, understand, and be moved by music. What an amazing human experience!
Back to the tree...if you play an incredible run-through of your recital piece right now, and no one is there to hear it....well, that's certainly an accomplishment, and one that needs to happen. But how much more powerful is that experience before an audience? Would it make a difference to you if no one acknowledged that gift you've shared with them? It just takes a few minutes...
Happy 2014! I just realized that with the new semester off to an already-hectic pace, I have neglected catapulting my thoughts out there into the wild blue web. Over the New Year I read a thought-provoking book by Seth Godin: Linchpin. The same author of Purple Cow and other interesting reads, Godin emphasizes what is at the heart of what keeps me passionate about being a music educator: everyone's an artist.
In a time when most people are afraid of investing in what connects them passionately to life for fear of going a more practical route, his message rings clear. Art requires emotional labor. Although emotional labor is a commodity readily available to all people, the spending and investing of it is carefully monitored out of fear and lack of value. Besides emotional labor, it takes the investment of and in one's self to create art.
Godin defines art as "a personal gift that changes the recipient." I love that continuum, that powerful cause-and-effect: someone is called to create art, which then somehow changes someone. Actually, the crux of the act of creating art is to connect with someone, to offer a gift. The recipient could be the artist, but in its truest form, the recipient is someone else.
As musicians, that principle should influence everything we do. Why do we earn degrees? To get jobs or to lead passionate, fulfilling lives in which we effect change? If the object of our game is to earn money, does what we create cease to be art? I'm not for a second implying that we should "give away" art, or that art does not merit the respect of fair compensation. I am, however, celebrating the tenet of "selflessness." This invites a release of the tension of needing to play perfectly or making the next round at the audition. Moreover, it sustains transformative art that makes a difference. Can you imagine considering that the next time you're practicing?
So we're all artists...and we can be in everything we do, if we just make the investment of emotional labor. Musicians are ahead of the game which society is now discovering! How differently would you play/teach/sing if you considered that what you were about to create would influence someone else?