MONDAY BYTES — September 29, 2014
The terrific ensemble eighth blackbird (I’m a big fan) recently gave an excellent master class at Manhattan School of Music.
In it I was struck by how many of 8BB’s comments revolved around issues of “selling the performance” (their phrase). I was glad they spoke so directly on this aspect of musicianship.
Selling the performance is about winning your audience over by convincing and engaging them in experiencing with you the energy and emotion of the work.
It’s about fully communicating your view and message to others, so that they join you in an active artistic experience.
There’s a big difference between merely replicating on stage what we do in the practice room (problem solving and exploring) versus performing for others — communicating a story, a point of view, and a realized interpretation.
How do we know what is getting across to others? How do we help performers learn how to deliver?
8BB approached this by asking the performers about their intentions and conceptions of the repertoire. They tied the ability to “sell a performance” to key decisions that need to be made in rehearsals, asking:
What’s the character you’re after with this phrase?
What’s the direction of that line — where are you headed?
What’s the function of this passage in this section of the piece?
When you started working on this piece, what did you decide to focus on?
In some cases, the musicians had clear concepts but these weren’t coming across as demonstrably as they thought.
In other cases, the musicians had been distracted form deciding about of direction and intention by instead focusing on the logistics and mechanics of playing the piece.
The moral is that in performance, what we may think is clear and vivid may actually come across to others as bland or vague.
Selling the performance may involve what may seem like huge exaggerations of character, sound color, articulation, dynamics, and/or other features in a phrase.
It may feel exaggerated because we’ve been focused on the impact of a phrase in the practice room with ourselves as audience, rather than for an audience in a hall, with some people seated 40 or 50 feet away.
Our focus in the practice room cannot be solely inward. Learning what is really coming across takes performance experience, reflection, feedback, and the willingness to take risks.
Ultimately, selling a performance is about clarity of intentions and artistic choices.
This is the same in our career and life experience: what we communicate to others in our teaching, interviews, daily interactions — it’s all about the clarity of our intentions and our choices, and becoming sensitized to how we are coming across to others.
Question for the week: what have you found helpful for yourself and/or your students in terms of ”Selling the performance”? I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences with this!