After my most recent writing haitus, I struggled over choosing which topic would relaunch my blogging. Many things come to mind (and will be passed to yours in due time) - I have stream of consciousness ramblings and vague outlines on teaching, focus and mindfulness, research, social media presence, and so on and so forth. I decided to blog on "powering up" because it has benefitted me very concretely in the past two weeks.
It all started here, with my summer foray into documentaries and TED Talks:
In case you don't have 20 minutes to watch a TED Talk (which I think you should set aside at least once a week), the organization summarizes it for you:
"Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see
Wait a minute. So you CAN actually fake it 'til you make it?
The concept is quite simple, actually. Holding your body in a wider, more expansive, "high power" pose sends the message to your brain that you are, in fact, high power. Biologically, the claim is that testosterone levels rise and cortisol ones fall, thus increasing your subconscious expectation of success and your natural propensity for risk-taking (or bravery-requiring) behaviors. Additionally, you send the the nonverbal message that you are strong and confident, despite how you may feel in actuality.
I was intrigued enough to try this a little over a week ago, immediately before performing the Mozart Concerto with the lovely Henry Cheng and IU Ad-Hoc Orchestra, to whom I am continually thankful. Despite my immense self-consciousness, I stood backstage for a solid minute like this:
No, I was not wearing that costume.
I was amazed at how well it worked! I felt physically stronger, my weight was more even distributed between my feet, my legs and hips were more grounded, my inhalations flowed deeper into my abdomen, my shoulders fell back and down naturally. As much as I was ever going to in that moment, I felt pretty Wonder Woman-y.
Now, I am not advocating imagining yourself as a superhero as a method for technical improvement. Ultimately, if you can be as collected, self-assured, and in the moment as possible while performing, you are more likely to replicate how you present the music in a stress-free environment. And superheros, at least according to my observations, cope with stress exceptionally well.
Amy Cuddy (afore-referenced TED Talker and Harvard business professor) presents this as applicable in job interviews and presentations. I vote for performance settings such as recitals or auditions. The opportunities are quite wide ranging, though. Give it a shot, and I would love to know what you experience.
Power up and go be super!
I find it fitting to inaugurate this blog with a brief introduction on my views of performance. Firstly, because performing is at the center of our musical lives, and secondly, because I am just shy of four hours away from my first doctoral recital. For the first reason, this post should be a novel. For the second, it is embarrassingly short and unorganized.
Performance is the culmination of so many aspects of musicianship, each of which will inevitably make its way back to this blog. Programming, practice, rehearsal, marketing, anxiety, physical health, stage presence, logistics... the list seems endless at times. What I wish to impress today is the undeniable need for performance.
As students, public performances are daunting. They represent evaluation, criticism, and potential for failure. Not passing a barrier jury can mean a delay (or termination) of your studies. Presenting an ill-prepared recital can mean the same, plus the added humiliation and blow to self-confidence. We are too frequently transplanted from a place of sharing human experience to one of judging technical achievement, and we are scared to perform.
Without performance, however, music is denied its intent. Delicately shaped melodies that fall not on deaf ears, but rather on none at all, have no impact. Emotion finds no person to affect. All of your work exists only for you, and the timeless suites, sonatas, and concerti die in the practice room as etudes. The tree falls in the woods, and it does not make a sound.
"Music fills the infinite between two souls."
So go find another soul and fill the infinite. You may miss a few notes, send a few errant squeaks and squawks into the world, but nothing exists in a vacuum.
Be brave and go perform.