“At each concert, music is created anew,
according to a performer’s imagination.”
–The Musician’s Way, p. 112
Whenever we perform, we aim for that “in-the-moment” feeling. We strive to immerse ourselves and our listeners in the emotion of the music.
Yet although we aspire to be freely creative on stage, we also need to be consistently accurate.
How can we unite spontaneous creativity with technical security? Here are four ways.
1. Practice Spontaneity
If our goal is to perform with spontaneous emotion, we need to emphasize free expression in the practice room. Still, because practice involves repetition, staleness can easily creep in.
One way to vaccinate against staleness is to playfully vary any repetition. For instance, after one clean run of solo passage, upon repeating it, we might tweak our tone and timing. In this way, we open ourselves to impromptu insights.
“Always try to find variety,” urged cellist Pablo Casals; “it is the secret of music.” (Casals and the Art of Interpretation, p. 161)
2. Feel Every Phrase
Although heartfelt expression is our goal, in practice, many tasks are head-driven: we analyze problems, test solutions, etc. The trick is to make the problem-solving process as emotionally vibrant as it is intellectually engaging.
Personally, I bring a living quality to every sound I make, even when I’m unraveling technical snags. In so doing, my technical command serves my expressive notions.
Then, on stage, my practice habits empower me to give myself over to the music.
3. Embrace Possibility
A mind that’s open to expressive possibilities will find creative potential in any music.
For that reason, I ceaselessly look for new ways to shape the music I play. I never stop exploring, so I discover freshness everywhere.
In The Art of Possibility, the authors write that when we forsake this open mindset, we constrict into a sense of scarcity – we stop seeing options and opportunities. But when we embrace possibility, there’s no limit to what we might come up with.
4. Savor the Moment
Music exists in time – it unfolds in the present and then contracts into the past. When we savor the temporality of our art, we stop trying to over-control the future and, instead, celebrate each moment, whatever it brings.
This savoring quality is especially crucial when we practice or perform repertoire that we’ve known for ages.
Singer Tony Bennett encapsulated this concept in a 2005 interview. Speaking of his signature song, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, he said, “That song made me a world citizen. And when I do it, it always feels like the first time.”
See Parts I & II of The Musician’s Way for diverse ways to infuse your music making with spontaneity and insight.
© 2011 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © Lars Christensen, licensed from Shutterstock.com