Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Throw it at the audience, warts and all!

"Throw it at the audience: warts and all!"

"Play anything you like."

"If they complain, never mind."

The above statements (from a Radio 3 interview) provide a significant insight into why two pianists, Zoe Rahman and David Rees-Williams, have become highly gifted improvisers: one of the secrets is to be uninhibited and able to express and share musical ideas "in the moment" as they form in the mind, appear upon the keyboard and begin sounding in the air.

This uninhibited expressing and sharing is not something all musicians can do. I recall one highly skilled professional orchestral violinist telling me that the mere thought of improvising in front of people filled her with dread: her training and musical conditioning inhibiting her own spontaneous creativity in favour of the rehearsed creativity of others.

Horses for courses and different musicians for performing different music.

But for those of us who need to contribute new and creative ideas (be these musical or otherwise), it is essential to marry our foundational knowledge, training and expertise with spontaneity of action.

The influence of our knowledge, training and expertise (our towering protective shadow of the tried, tested and sensible) can implore us to carefully rehearse our contributions before offering them.

This is often, of course, very beneficial. But habitual rehearsal can cause us to express and share ideas devoid of spontaneity: ideas that are shot through with and weakened by apparently sensible qualifications and "hedging our bets" second thoughts.

And it is these weakened ideas that people hear and, like an audience listening to a musician performing a "better safe than sorry" improvisation, quickly forget.

Rather than always perceiving your knowledge, training and expertise as a protective shadow of the tried and tested, occasionally try using them as a firm foundation from which you can launch new and creative ideas: share your ideas, warts and all; say anything you like in the way you like; if people complain, never mind (because this is better than having your ideas ignored and forgotten).

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