Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Change things at the last moment

I recently saw a Facebook post by Tasmin Little, the virtuoso violinist. Tasmin had posted a photo of a page from a piece of music. There were many handwritten markings and numbers above the notes on the page.

Tasmin explained that the page was from a piece of music she was going to perform in a few hours time and that the markings were changes she had that moment made to her bowing and fingerings (these being the precise way her bow and fingers would contact the strings of the violin to produce the notes).

Why does Tasmin make these last minute changes? Are they made because of last minute doubts and insecurities caused by weak self-confidence? Or are they made purposefully and positively as a result of strong self-confidence? The results she achieves clearly indicate the latter rather than the former: Tasmin Little consistently produces top class, vibrant performances.

These last minute changes help Tasmin maintain and build upon her enthusiasm for her music. They also add a sense of risk that encourages Tasmin to focus fully upon her performance: to apply her entire mental and musical faculties towards meeting the challenges, some of them self-imposed, that the music presents.

Bringing this enthusiasm and energy, sense of risk, freshness and enhanced mental and musical focus into the "here and now" moment of performance significantly increases the likelihood of Tasmin giving exceptional performances: performances which help both her and her audience hear the music in new ways.

Music on a page is transformed into unique creative experiences discovered by and shared between Tasmin and her audiences.

Tasmin can identify and implement creative and performance enhancing changes to her music because she has the following:
  1. An in depth knowledge of her music and the different ways it can be interpreted and performed.
  2. The skills required to implement her last minute changes and manage their associated risks. 
  3. The willingness, ability and enthusiasm to take risks. 
  4. Willing and able collaborators who possess the knowledge and skills required to adapt to her last minute changes.
  5. The generosity to share her thinking, knowledge, experience, skills and expertise with others (so encouraging people to collaborate with her).
  6. An initial outline plan of performance, which are the notes and other markings on the page plus her past approaches to performing them, that provides a reassuring benchmark against which last minute changes can be compared. 
  7. Clarity of intention about making her last minute changes; all changes must add to the quality of her performance (e.g., they must increase excitement, add a new insight, enhance technical implementation, or enhance musicality in some other way).  
  8. The confidence to express her personal views about the music and how she may best perform it.           
We can all use Tasmin's "last minute changes" approach to enhance the focus of our thinking, improve the way we apply our skills, and increase the energy and creativity with which we overcome our challenges. 

To do this effectively, we need to adapt the above eight points to our own contexts. Specifically, we need to do the following things: 
  • Gain in-depth and relevant knowledge of our challenges and how they have been previously addressed.
  • Develop the skills necessary to make last minute changes and manage the associated risks.
  • Be willing and able to take risks.
  • Find willing and able collaborators.
  • Have the generosity to share our knowledge and skills.
  • Create an initial plan based upon what we know and what we have done in the past (so we can compare last minute changes against a reliable benchmark).
  • Be clear about what we intend our last minute changes to achieve.
  • Have the confidence to express our personal preferences for addressing our challenges.

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