Create Something New
As I go about re-learning some old repertoire for upcoming concerts, I try to remind myself not to get into the habit of simply going through learned motions. It’s so easy to fall into this trap; I catch myself doing it all the time. I mean, why not, right? If a particular approach has worked out for us in the past, why not just do it the same way again? The problem with this approach, however, is that it causes the music to lose its “spark;” the performance becomes more an exercise in muscle memory than a genuine re-exploration of the music. As a result, we might end up glossing over important compositional details that have been forgotten since last time we looked at the score, or losing touch with the inner story, drama, and spirit of the music.
Much more human, I think, is the notion of creating something new. Forgetting everything one has learned about a piece of music, and learning it all over again. Building a new house, so to speak.
Perhaps this means approaching the piece from another angle, or studying the score to find some hidden details, or reading about the composer to learn more about his or her personality and life experiences. Maybe it means starting from the end of the work or zeroing in on a particular passage that has never quite felt settled, dissecting it in a new and innovative way. It could also mean looking for new colours and dimensions in the sound, or experimenting with certain tempo choices and characters.
Whatever one’s approach, I think we can all agree that, no matter how many times we have played a piece, we owe it to the composers to try to realise their intentions as best as we can. In fact, one could argue that as performers, this is our duty, plain and simple. We are here to be of service to the music, to interpret it in a thoughtful and meaningful way, and ultimately, to create a moving and touching experience for the listener. Anything less, I believe, would be a failure of a performance. The audience doesn’t care how bored we might be with a piece or that it’s our 20th time playing it. They couldn’t care less even if we tripped over ourselves on the way to the stage from our dressing room. They want to hear a committed performance, a genuine portrayal of the music, no matter the circumstances.
So if nothing else, play for these audience members who haven’t yet heard the music, because there is always at least one! Show them how it goes. Create something new. In the process you might find that the “spark” of the music comes alive once more.