Friday, May 20, 2011

Just have fun

I was complaining to my wife about the Mozart yesterday. I know how I want it to sound, and I'm almost there, in the sense that every passage, in isolation, can go well at least occasionally. But running it does not magically staple together the best performances that I ever had in practice, rather I'll be lucky if everything is typical. So I know already that the final performance will leave much to be dissatisfied about. Kinda depressing, really. She made a rather wise remark: the people in the audience are not there because they are expecting an amazing show, perhaps because some famous international soloist is coming. (Is there such a thing, on bassoon?) Rather, they are there to watch a bunch of amateurs having fun. So have fun -- look like you're happy to be there, and play it happily. That's something simple to keep in mind. Enthusiasm is infectious.

The thought process, the internal tape loop of negativity, reminds me of an essay by bassoonist John Steinmetz I read awhile back (before I started this blog in fact). The whole thing is worth reading. Why do musicians look like they're unhappy? Well, after spending thousands of hours practicing self-criticism, naturally you get pretty good at it. I don't know the right way to deal with this. He offers some advice, but it's more easily said than done. And besides, I'd like it to be good, and it's not clear to me that spending time trying to accept my flaws will improve the performance faster than spending time trying to correct them. I guess that's the core of the problem, and it's infinite. So better to go back to my wife advice, keep it simple, and have fun (despite the inevitable flaws).

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