Skip to main content

Slowing Time Down

When I am performing and things are going really well, time seems to slow down.  I am completely in control of my playing and of the music coming up, and I own the air around me.  This is not some mythical "runner's high" that only hits once in a blue moon, but a fairly normal occurrence.  Over the past few months, though, I have realized that it's not okay to just wait for that zone and hope it comes.  My out-of-the-zone performances are not bad - I can always play the oboe - but they are not good ENOUGH. 

Cases in point - recent auditions in Milwaukee, Utah, Indianapolis, Cleveland.  I go in, and in my first round I am unsinkable. I know what I'm doing, how to do it, and I perceive exactly what the situation requires.  If I make little mistakes they don't matter.  The silence between the excerpts is mine, just as the sound is when I begin to play.  In each case I am pleased but unsurprised when I advance. 

But each time, I return for the semi-final round as a different player.  Everything seems to happen too fast, from the moment the proctor collects me from my room.  It is hard to catch my breath between excerpts, tiny errors seem disproportionately crucial in my mind, I make more of them.  Although I remain competent, I can't quite find my way to the magic.  And the results always live up to that expectation. I don't make the finals.  I don't win the job.

And this is not because I am not good enough, talented enough, or prepared enough to have these gigs.  It isn't.  The me who plays in total control and owns the room is the same me.  I can access that me in performance regularly.  That me IS what I do. 

I am a slow learner - it took 4 identical experiences in a fairly short time to drive the point home. I always assume that THIS rough audition is an outlier and that the next one, with no new effort on my part, will be better.  But I get it now.  The point is to access that slowing-down-time place at will.  I need to find a focussing technique that works for me, and practice getting intentionally into that zone.  I rarely feel nervous on stage or in the audition room.  Calming myself has not been my goal, so practicing mental centering has always felt somewhat pointless.  Now I see why I would want it. 

Now that the goal is clear, I can work on it.  I can devise a plan.  I can conquer the challenge. 

I'd love to hear what techniques have worked for other people in solving this issue.  And rest assured that when I have established my approach I'll be letting everyone know about it.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Resonance

When my students get too MOUTHY with the oboe, I put them in a corner.

Really.

They tend to play the oboe only from the TOP of their body, north of the collarbone, and it winds up unsupported.  Fussy.  Weak.  And out of tune.

So I back them into a corner, and have them stand a foot or so out from it, facing out into the room.  And I challenge them to find a sound that resonates BEHIND them, out from the corner of the room that they are not facing, to fill the space without blowing directly into the space.

It's a weird metaphor.  I wouldn't have any idea how to describe the physical technique to do it. When I find it in myself, it feels like my back is puffy and my body is round, and large, and barrel like, and also collected and zipped up, and supremely powerful.  If you know me, you know that these statements about my body aren't remotely true.  But that's what I feel when I'm blowing well, and filling the room, and owning my resonance.

I teach resonance.  I talk …

Five Minute Reedmaker: Length of the Windows

My Five Minute Reedmaker Season Two seems to be largely about experiments.  People ask me how LONG, how THICK, how SLOPED, etc - and I'm running the experiments for them and for you.

I've been posting these videos on YouTube, and sharing them from my Facebook Page, but haven't totally kept up with sharing here on my blog.

Here are the ones you may have missed:
Length of the Heart
Fallacy of the Long Tip
Moldy Cane

And here's the new one:




Here's the YouTube playlist with all of my other Five Minute Reedmaker videos.  You could subscribe right there if you wanted to - I'm dropping a video each week until I run out of ideas this season.
Here's my website, where you can order reeds or cane or ask me questions.  Questions will keep these videos flowing! 

Here's how you can send me your own reeds to analyze and improve on video for your learning pleasure!

Generosity in Programming

I had the most interesting conversations with a few of my students after my first recital performance last weekend.  One thanked me for exposing her to so many interesting new pieces that she had never heard before.  One admitted unabashedly that his favorites were the familiar ones, the ones he already knew from his previous listening.  And both of these observations rang true to me.

See, I LOVE learning new music.  I really enjoy digging into a piece and breaking through an unfamiliar harmonic language to get to the depths of it.  To discover the composer's intention, and to find the universal emotion or experience at the heart of the work, and then to communicate that meaning back out to an audience.  This challenge is fun for me, and I think I do it well.

I have to be fair, though.  By the time I have put that kind of work into a new piece, it's not new to me anymore.  By the time I get it to the recital stage, it's an old friend.  I find great pleasure in performing i…