Monday, May 24, 2010

Going through performance withdrawl

Posted By on Mon, May 24, 2010 at 10:19 AM

I've been on a study-tour with some students in Vietnam for the past two weeks and haven't been able to practice or play any music with my band. Before I left, we were playing almost every weekend and I got used to regularly performing. Indeed, it turns out I'm some kind of addict because I'm having performance withdrawals that have got me thinking...

I first noticed it when we were riding on the tour bus. I was listening to music on my phone and felt energy welling up from deep down. I wanted to express that energy by playing and performing but couldn't. I could only listen to someone else's music while sitting on a hot bus.

I also noticed it the night that I found a jazz club in Hanoi. I could barely sit still as the band worked their way through standards that I play back home at the Double Door with Bill Hanna. I was that annoying guy who clapped too much and was a little too enthusiastic about the music. It was a great show but it was depressing at the same time.

I think that every performer is aware of that expressive energy on some level but it's in my mind since that energy has no where to go.

Some folks think artists and performers are all attention hungry people who need to be watched and praised by observers. They're like kids that never grew out of the "I need to be the center of attention" phase. This may be true in some cases — there are many artists that seem to always say "look at me!" in one way or another — but I think the desire to perform for an audience is also rooted in the desire to express the energy that the body wants to manifest. This is because it simply feels good to express the body's energy whether it be through sports, exercise, yoga, dance or musical performance.

At the same time, performing feels good because it gives one the sense that the body can function as an integrated unit or organic whole. Energy wells up from deep down, radiates outward and is focused by the technique that the body has absorbed through years of practice. After the energy is expressed, the performer feels good because she has experienced her body in a holistic way and this is something that's valuable in a hustle and bustle culture like our own. (How often do we get to focus on the way that our body's feel anyway?)

This isn't to say that postivie feedback from an audience isn't important. Having a crowd go crazy when you finish playing a song is magical and it lets you know you're doing something right. But that happens after the experience of performing is over, that is, after the energy has boiled up and been expressed in one's song or dance.

Until I get back to my band, I'll have to be satisfied with listening to mp3s on a hot bus...

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