Friday, October 12, 2018

Balancing Fear with Decisiveness June 26 2008

June 26, 2008 I wrote about Balance and wrote about Fear. When I reread it recently I first thought of it as my usual random wondering's and not focusing on a single topic. The more I think about it now though the more I realize how and why these two things are interwoven and why I may have been inclined to spend time on both and connect them. They are certainly worthy of separate treatment.

I have written often about fear or other such emotions connected with playing that are related to fear. In this entry in particular I was very declamatory about calling it fear specifically, not beating around the bush. What I had written about before June 26 2008 and many times since then is playing away from the cello, pulling away and playing in a tensed up way. At the time I am writing this I am practicing my part of a duet, the bass line to Bach invention No. 13 in a minor. Earlier as I got in to measure 16 I noticed it, the pulling away of the left hand, the pulling back and pulling up tension of the left arm. What note was I playing? F#, 1st position 3rd finger on the D string. As of this school year I have now played the cello for 30 years. How many 1st position 3rd finger F#'s have I played in my lifetime?! Certainly one would think enough of them to be comfortable with them and be confident in their accuracy. Alas that is not the case. Why? The simple answer is that it comes from being afraid, from being afraid of any of the following; making a mistake, playing a wrong note, those people listening not liking the sound, forgetting to do a certain something in the music, forgetting notes period, etc etc the list goes on and on.

Fear, a healthy dose, is healthy for us because it keeps us from doing bad stuff to ourselves. At least most of the time. And so its difficult to notice when the fear is unhealthy and this makes it easy to mushroom into an internal epidemic. We can start fearing the fear itself and what it might do to our playing, and then we are questioning why we are doing this in the first place and the whole thing spins out of control. You have to balance between that healthy amount and the amount that cripples you. But what is the balance? What tips the scales in favor of a less fearful experience? Decisiveness.

This was my declaration at the end of all this fear analysis on June 26 2008 was to say that all of it is fed by one looming problem, the inability to make a decision, a decision about the sound. If you never decide what you want, never decide what is good quality and bad quality, then the void that exist in the absence of decisiveness fills up with something else. Since fear is fairly prevalent, lots of things to be afraid of when performing music because so many things can go horribly wrong, that void fills up with fear.

And so what do I think about all this now...

You see, ours is an aural art form. It all comes back to the sound and what you decide about it. The decision making process about the sound, that logical step, balances the emotional part. Isn't it always so with anything worthy of doing in our world? I come across it so many times, that in order for the artful product to fully manifest itself it must be produced in a process that is balanced between the emotional vision and the logical order.

I will interject here something of an aside. In those moments when the fear is under control, at least more under control, I move differently. That stands to reason but I mean very specifically that different muscles get used. When I am focused on the sound in a more pure way, free from the distraction of an inner dialogue, something extraordinary happens physically and my hands and arms begin to contract and move in different ways than they did before, in better ways. Its above my pay grade to know exactly why but I do know for certain that we move toward sound. That is why deciding what we want about the sound matters so much. .... moving on....

Everything we are as fearful wonderful human beings with this discipline of music is based around the kind of sound we make. Everything we feel about it, think about it, and experience in making it is connected to those vibrations we call sound. Further, because we are so connected to it this way the sound effects us on a conscious and unconscious level. That's why we sometimes have pent up fear that we are clueless to the origins of. Ever not know exactly what you sounded like? Ever been surprised by a recording of your performance? Well your conscious mind and ears are surprised by what you didn't know, but all that unconscious programming running in the background is never fooled, ever. It is wise, and old and impervious to any lack of decision making on our part. There is something deep in us that always makes a correct judgement of the sound, sometimes we listen to what it tells us and sometimes we run in fear. 

Hoping you find a healthy dose of balanced fearful aural decisiveness in your practicing. (<= what a mouthful no wonder playing a musical instrument is hard)


Bach Invention No. 13 in a minor