Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!

Playing to the audience --- or in your own private world

Playing to the audience --- or in your own private world

I’ve noticed that when I’m performing in front of an audience, particularly in a concert setting, there are two different modes of operation between which I fluctuate during the course of a set.  For those of you who are public performers or who are considering entering that amazing world, perhaps these will be useful concepts:

When I play some pieces, especially upbeat ones, such as my zany version of “Soldier’s Joy” or my original composition “Sycamore Rapids,” I find myself playing to the listeners --- intending to communicate the excitement of the music from myself to them.  Notice I’m not trying to merely play a tune or arrangement, or demonstrate what I can do, but rather I’m forming the perspective in my mind that I’m right there with those other people and I am sharing my own experience with them in an active and assertive way.  (And yes, I’m basically an introvert, so I find that this keeps me from getting too self-conscious --- it’s not an extroverted behavior but in reality a coping mechanism!)  With a meaningful and lively spoken introduction, I set the stage for this approach, and the audience usually gets the message easily.

Yet at other points in the program I will plan to play a selection that is moving, sentimental, seriously dramatic, contemplative, like "Broom o' the Cowdenknowes" or "Cleansing Fountain"… and the mindset changes:  After an introduction that focuses everyone’s mind on the earnest and meaningful theme of the piece, I turn toward my instrument and collect myself (and if it’s on the flute I may even close my eyes), then enter an adventure in my own enclosed world.  I discipline myself to essentially ignore the listeners and live my own life within the music for the moment.  Again, the people get the idea and understand that they are being allowed to attend a special moment in an artist’s existence.

With these clear-cut shifts in my conscious viewpoint, I feel much more comfortable with drawing the audience through a passage of time in the world of my music --- not just playing a series of collected programmed works.  It becomes much more of an event, and a memorable one!  I encourage you performers to explore these techniques in your own contexts.

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