The audience and the stage

Source: my Flickr

I was at a concert in Philharmonie last night, sitting in the audience. After many concerts where I have been on the stage, it was a strange sensation. Once again I felt out of place sitting among the listeners, even if I could never have been playing with such a brilliant team of musicians; but on a personal level I felt near to them. I saw them exchanging glances before an especially hard passage, syncing tempo and movements, laughing sincerely when they enjoyed the music they were creating, finishing a piece and immediately rearranging the instruments for the next one. I think it’s because I’ve been on the stage and in the backstage for so long that I can pierce through the wall of what the musicians offer the public as a final product, and get a glance on how they build it.

This made me think about a further point. I keep saying that I prefer to see rehearsals than concerts or shows. What I mean is that, having been playing music myself, I give high value on the way a piece is slowly assembled rather than on the single execution at the concert. It’s obviously a necessary goal, but it has almost no value for me if it’s the only part of the way I can access, because one can see a tiny fraction of the heap of small steps that were required to get there.

That’s why I’m playing again with JEB and joined a choir, to get even more backstage and rehearsals đŸ™‚ More posts about that soon!

On acting, on roles

I had planned a book review for today, but either it is too long since I read the books I’d love to talk about, either I borrowed them and can not go through my bookmarks to find the excerpts I cherished the most.

So, let today’s post be a reflection on acting and on the roles you can build, or have to fit in, as a human being. I have been fascinated by how the actors of Sherlock have created such rich characters, full of little details and vibrant from emotions, but without identifying themselves in them (you can see how they appear outside of the stage, and even briefly when they pop out of their character’s role on stage. Intriguing). I wondered how it would feel to keep being a given character in real life, and concluded that it would not be possible – as much as a statue or a painting are not as alive as the subject they represent. The way in which these actors carefully build their own characters, line by line, gesture by gesture, is the most artificial way that I can imagine. No one could create his/her image for the public like this, without feeling the varying gap between the character’s personality and his/her own, and suffering from it. There would never be room for truly natural behaviour, as everything would have to be considered by the mind-director before being executed.

Still, I find that the acting process is able to generate extremely valuable insights in one’s own personality. A particular ease or difficulty in acting a line tells much on how one built him/herself during the years; and the stage offers a relatively safe place to test  changements, because it is not you, rather your character who is in the spotlight.

Let me conclude with my love for the backstage – for the basement where the statue stands – for the closeness of actors beyond their characters – for the privilege of knowing how a magic trick (let it be a play, a concert, a dance show, a cooking recipe!) comes to life – for the sweet, subtle pleasure to be among the magicians.


On playing at concerts

I am wondering what is happening to me in this last year, as I have helplessy seen myself becoming less and less involved in performing publicly with my orchestra.

I have many years experience with concerts and I lost quite early the panic right before walking on stage, and the stress on stage; until recently I enjoyed playing for the audience, let people feel the emotions of a given piece of music together with us and possibly the soul of the author.

A couple years ago something changed – something broke, I could say. I felt that my most enjoyable moments happened at the rehearsals, usually around the last one, then the concert felt like an unnecessary burden. Getting dressed, preparing everything to look good and be able to move silently on stage looked like acting, bad acting.

I talked about that with my drums teacher and he described how he feels instead. I could clearly understand how he feels the responsibility of playing well at concerts, how concerts are the necessary final step of a long preparation. But something in me is disillusioned. Even at concerts that I attend as part of the audience, the magic is gone. Still, I feel the musicians closer than before; I feel I am on stage too and we are not part of the show, because we are part of the backstage. I fell in the backstage and can’t (won’t?) get back to the limelight.

I don’t know if I will be happy to play at concerts again; I don’t really care now. What is important at the moment is that I understand what is the most important thing for me instead, get it to perfection and move on. It is maybe the attention to movement (see all posts about that!), the timeless practice of a small quirk, finding the sparkles of joy in other musicians’ concerts. For example, I totally love how relaxed and focused are the players of Combattimento Consort of Amsterdam, while playing Bach’s Christmas Oratorium:

Starting from the conductor, I see so much enthusiasm, closeness, confidence, flow, fun. There is even a moment when the conductor lets the string quartet play on their own, and simply listens to them. This is definitely how I would like to feel on stage.