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Everyone Makes Mistakes

I’ve been home for four whole days now, and I’m still feeling inspiration from my IDRS visit.  Today I’m thinking about mistakes. 

Everyone made some.  I heard 17 individual soloists in two days, and not one played perfectly.  Not one person gave a CD quality performance.  Which doesn’t in any way mean that I’m saying that they played badly. 

The players I heard were world class.  They were all very individual, and presented different sound concepts, different reed approaches, and different personalities.  Any attempt to rank them would be absurd, and any attempt to count mistakes or compare performances in that way would be hateful, and that is NOT what I’m doing. 

Sometimes when I take auditions, I can get very focused on perfection.  And sometimes when I am performing on stage I have to really fight NOT to obsess about small mistakes - finger flubs or missed attacks or out of tune notes or dropped endings. 

And I know players far more obsessive than I - and certainly more flawless as well - who think about mistakes all the time.  Consistency and unarguable correctness are the tools of their trade. 

I think there’s a place for that.  We should aim for perfection, if only as a distant goal.  But the performances I loved the most at IDRS were not necessarily the ones with the fewest mistakes, but the ones with the most heart.  I loved it when I could clearly hear the phrase, and when it moved me.  When I was caught off guard by an unexpected (but delicious) musical choice.  When the beauty of a singing sound, appropriately used, struck my ear.  When a lively and stylish turn of phrase felt just just right.  None of these things are necessarily dependent on being perfect.  

I’ve been told I’m a perfectionist.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!  I am confident that nothing I do is ever perfect, and I don’t even really aspire to that end.  I think I might be an awesomist.  I want what I do to be impressive, admirable, distinctive.  Noticeable.  Awesome. 

I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I certainly heard some awesome playing while I was in NY.  Thank you, EVERYONE, for the inspiration!

Comments

  1. …..One more goal achieved, as you said. New questions, new curiosities. I wonder if in musical performance identifying errors, can be done with the same ease, (given the requisite knowledge) as in, let’s say, certain intellectual, or even physical games, such as chess or bridge. From the expert’s point of view, in those games any deviation from the prevailing statistical probability is a mistake, even if does not lead to a temporary setback.(If it doesn’t the opponents made their mistake.)
    It seems to me, however, that in musical performance-actually in all artistic performance- a similar deviation may be construed as “spontaneous creativity”, no? I suspect a mistake has been made when a note “just doesn’t sound good, or long enough, or too long” (The following notes usually confirm or refute the initial opinion.
    And you are charmingly right that in the end it is the awsomeness that counts. The degree of soul-stirring the sound evokes, and an unplanned smile is born. A fellow performer may consider a slightly premature, slightly louder attack a mistake. A less informed listener may experience it as a rousing bell preparing him for the sweet tones to come…
    Dimitri

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  2. Well, there's a difference between mistakes and spontaneous creativity - though a minor mistake can easily be turned into a creative choice, and can color the rest of the performance. I'm thinking of an attack that speaks slightly late, and the subsequent choice to place other similar attacks behind the beat to match - that can be fun, and sound coherent, and interesting to boot. What I was thinking about in the post, though, was just straight up finger fumbles and missed low notes - obvious mistakes that no one wanted. We can forget, in this age of CDs and digital perfection, that live music is hard even for the great ones.

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