Recently I’ve attended several musical performances: a 19-year-old pianist in the local Young Pianist Concert Series, an up-and-coming organist, a visiting Russian pianist, a faculty recital at a nearby university, and the combined men’s choruses of two local universities. Each performer or conductor discussed their music with the audience before they played or sang. The concerts were excellent — as I expected. But that’s not the point.
The point is the “magic of presence.” Watching the performer appear on stage, noticing how they approach their instrument, observing their preparation to play, hearing the first sounds, absorbing their interpretation of the music, noticing the nuances and their musical dexterity, experiencing the unique connection of musician and composer, and inhaling the breath and life of the concert hall.
You see, there is no concert, no communication if you will, with only a performer. There must be an audience to receive the notes and phrases. Musicians make music every day in the privacy of their practice rooms — but that’s only preparation for the performance, the musical sharing and communication with others. Performance is live, with giver and receiver, with dynamics and interactions unique to the occasion. That particular performance can never occur again, even with the same performer playing the same music in the same hall with the same audience in attendance.
This “magic of live performance” is important in our non-musical conversations as well. Our texts and tweets and emails are the equivalent of looking at a sheet of music. We see the words, we see the dynamic markings in the formatting of the text, perhaps we can hear the person’s voice in the words if we know them well. But so much is missing — their actual voice, their body language, the twinkle or the tear in their eye, the wrinkle in their brow, the lilt of their words, the cadence of their speech, the rush, the pause, their eyes that engage us.
What I’m suggesting is
- Listening to music lets you hear the notes but the rest of the communication is missing.
- Tweeting, texting and emailing gives us the words, but eliminates nuances of non-written communication.
- Reading a book is not the same as hearing the author read his/her words and witnessing their voice and body language as an enhancement to their words.
Many of us only get to the first level of communication: we see notes in a score, words on a screen or page, hear music filling the background of our other activities. In fact, we often try to read and watch television at the same time, or put the music on to kill the silence, or think texting is real conversation.
We can do better.
Try a new venture this week:
- attend an author-reading at your local library or bookstore
- attend a live performance: theater, opera, a recital, a concert
- visit with a friend, have face-to-face conversation with all electronic gadgets turned off.
Your life will be forever enriched by the live performances you participate in.
Until next Tuesday . . .