In my teaching, I am regularly talking about the music we are studying and performing as a language that communicates to us as the performer and then through us to our audience that hears us. In my own playing and performing, I am studying how different mediums of art interact together as they are created together.
We can easily observe this idea as we pay attention to the score of a movie without music. If you haven't seen this video of the Throne Room Scene of Star Wars - A New Hope, you should check it out. Clearly, the musical interaction with the scene is of tremendous importance.
We can easily observe in examples like this how the music impacts the presentation to the audience, but does the interaction of music and art actually affect the choices of the artist in creating the work? In other words, when an artist creates a work of art while listening or otherwise being impacted by another artist's work, does that change the work in progress?
Painter, David Hummer of the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art and I are experimenting with that concept and observing how music and painting interact in creating a work of art. We have tried it in the studio and have experienced the impact and on January 26th, 2020, we are going to add a third dimension to that mix: a live audience. Our plan is to create a work of art on stage. He will be painting a portrait of musician and composer, Philip Glass. I will be improvising and in a sense creating a musical score to his painting all the while we are both restrained to the time confines of a recital performance.
The performance is January 26th, 2020 at 2pm and will be held at the Caroline Mark Concert Hall at the Wausau Conservatory. Admission is free.
Do you ever feel that way about performances. It is like the anxiety takes over our body. We try to relax. We try to remember what we've prepared to do. But, something just makes us tense up and the more we think about the possibility that we'll tense up and make a mistake makes us tense up even more. What do you do?
Here is a great article on dealing with and coping with performance stress. There is no magic cure, but knowing we all deal with it in various ways can be an encouragement. Check out the article here.
Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue is perhaps the most memorable piano concerto of all time. Instantly identifiable by the opening clarinet glissando and with its singable and catchy melodies, it is no wonder Rhapsody in Blue has been loved by so many.
A question many pianists ask is whether Gershwin's composition should be treated as a classical work and performed with great attention to the detail of the score or should it be treated as a jazz piece where the score is there to provide framework and ideas and it is the performer's job to interpret and communicate the music.
Some great recordings by Benjamin Zander and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra: CLICK HERE
For students in school, everything is new in September. New classes, new schedules... For my students, this is the time we focus in on new repertoire choices. Of course, pieces we are performing in the upcoming weeks and months of the fall are well underway, but there is much ahead that we need to think about for February, March, April and May. These can be busy with opportunities to perform. Setting goals for performances at Solo and Ensemble Festivals or recitals is a great way to encourage growth.
Performance of any type plays a significant role in helping us grow. There is a healthy pressure that challenges us when we perform and we grow differently and quicker than if we are simply playing for fun. As we choose repertoire, we try to find a balance between performing pieces that are required or on a festival list, performing pieces that are standard repertoire that every student should learn, and performing pieces that pique the student's interest.
As adults, we need to find ways to challenge ourselves in this way as well or our growth tends to level out and we lose much of our opportunity for progress. Of course, we are not going to have many of the opportunities younger students do, but we can find and create opportunities that work for us. Set goals for the year ahead. Set deadlines. When will you plan to have a piece prepared and ready to perform? Why are you choosing this piece? Who will you perform this piece for. Something as simple as making and posting a YouTube video can be a way to perform. It challenges. It makes us vulnerable to feedback. Setting goals and performing helps us to reach these goals, grow in maturity--both musically, and personally--as we become vulnerable and share what we are learning on the piano.