Routine and Post-Recital Haze

In the midst of this post-recital haze, brought on by not adequately evaluating the amount of mental and physical drain imposed by the process, I have developed a new attitude.  I now have a better understanding of what to do in the future. There are scores of advice on what to do leading up to a recital, but little comments on life post-recital.

Leading up to the recital, obviously prepare all of the material, but make sure to square away plans with your friends and family. The sooner the better; develop a game plan so that during the week leading up to the recital, you can focus solely on your material, not about organizing a family get together. If possible, recruit someone to help in this matter. Also, make sure basic necessities, like food and bills, are addressed properly. 

Enjoy the moment; that time on the stage will not happen again. Let go and express yourself. If you forget a passage, so what, roll with the punches and move onto the next part. People are there to hear you play, reward them aurally for dedicating their time to you.

I believe that it’s appropriate to take some time off, a vacation, if you will. After my recital I was not afforded such an opportunity, but if possible, I highly recommend at least a good week of recuperation.

Take this time to look at new repertoire, listen to new music, examine future opportunities (but beware, during this process more questions seem to arise than answers), or re-watch Game of Thrones…. However you choose to spend your time, once you return to the practice room, you will feel refreshed and invigorated. I always find that after hiatuses, it seems as if I’m hearing the piano anew, with fresh ears.

I have found that life continues on normally, no matter how big the moment. Change might be apparent immediately, or over time, but the daily routine still must be completed. Working on little goals that are part of a larger whole, chipping away bit-by-bit until they are completed, only to restart the entire process anew. That’s life. It’s never ending, but isn’t that why we love music in the first place?

I want to rid myself of this mentality of working towards this big culminating goal, and letting it define you, as opposed to viewing it as a piece of the puzzle, a moment that moves towards a lifetime of musical understanding. What are goals in the end? In music, certainly there can be aspirations, but eventually time takes its toll. Hopefully when it arrives, we have enjoyed our time progressing through ‘the hoops.’ 

Who cares about the notes?

During the amount of time I have been contributing towards my recital repertoire, an interesting development has occurred: generally I used to care little about an absolute perfect performance note-wise, but I have been dwelling on accuracy so much, that the emotion behind the pieces has all but faded.

Do not get me wrong, I still believe that accuracy is important, but this constant drilling of passages without any imbued feeling has seemed to have a negative net impact. I remember the ending of my Brahms ballade would invoke such deep meaning, yet lately I feel so cold when I reach it’s last moments. I can only blame my focused efforts on perfection over understanding.

I realize that many can play pieces on a much stronger technical level than is currently capable of me, therefore I must offer an emotional performance. Fast fingers leave no lasting impression, yet a deeper connection that is felt the instant the notes are made audible will excuse any deficiencies.

That is why I say, who cares about the notes?

It amazes me how much time can be spent on what turns out to be only approximately three minutes, after what feels like hours spent practicing. 

That being said, I am delighted to share this work in progress: My performance of Ginastera’s Piano Sonata No.1, Op.22: No.4 from the NASM recital at Bloomsburg University, from fall 2013.

Being a Perfectionist Musician

The best flaw to have, being a perfectionist. 

My incessant need for perfection constantly constrains my willingness to perform and publish material. I always believe in having a perfect product before presenting it to the public, but the problem is, in music, no product is perfect

In this age of superficial perfectionism, where modern recording techniques allow a piece to be spliced together, combined with listeners easy access to these recordings, the standard in reality becomes falsified, setting the precedent of an un-reachable level of perfection in a live art form. (I feel some similarities drawn between the current photoshop debacles involving physical beauty). 

How can those of us affect by this need for perfection live in such a world? As a perfectionist myself, I will say that the standards are always set higher of my own accord than anyone else’s. What I have come to realize over time: I probably sound better than I think, but most likely focus on my flaws. 

A performance reveals the understanding of a particular piece, not the performers value as a person. I believe that when we hear a piece live, we are witnessing a work in progress, no matter what stage it is in. Even if the notes are perfect, there seems to be a level beyond that is imperfect (phrasing, etc), and even if that is perfect, there is a level beyond that (connection to music) and even if that’s perfect…well, you get the idea.

I have found that perfection seems to be a rather relative term, as opposed to concrete. One’s polished piece is another’s first read-through. The best conclusion I have found is similar to my post on “The Zone,” Always strive to play the best in any possible situation. 

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