Having taken part in a recent performance and meeting, it was a refreshing experience to explore how people feel about performing and the obstacles that they faced. In particular a performer who mentioned how our mental state has a major effect on our physical state. A piece or song that was effortless in the practice room; it became something of a challenge in front of other people.
This is one of the areas that have interested me in many ways. We live in one of the most densely populated places (being a major city), yet we can struggle to do certain things in front of others. Usually in train stations we cannot move because it’s full of commuters every day. We almost compromise our own personal space, much to our annoyance of many passing while getting around the city.
We are so thrown out of our comfort zone regularly that why should performing be any different?
Everyone has their own reason as to why performing can faze them. Even the most experienced will always have that ‘butterflies’ feeling. But can we find a ‘one size fits all’ solution or is it entirely based on personal experience?
I think it’s a combination of both. We can have irrational fears where we once had a bad experience that we would rather avoid repeating. These can be beaten with a bit of will.
There are also other fears that can be seen as rational too. For a public speaker informing an audience, it can be invigorating and motivational for everyone. The fear here may be down to feeling like being one person facing down a big mob. Or just plain simply the attention from many at once that can be somewhat intimidating. We have the ‘fight or flight’ response kicking in.
There are some funny solutions of how to visualise the experience to make it more manageable to perform. In any case, whenever we busk outside, we can feel the nerves- but not so bad- we realise the attention is not on us but somewhere else. Eventually we relax. In any performance situation, we are in a public place just like any other- train stations, shop…etc. In some way we need to recreate that same ‘space’. To get more comfortable with people in our ‘personal space’. Just imagine being on that crowded train with people staring on their mobiles! As for the attention, we can detract the attention from ourselves by placing it on the music and the feelings associated with it.
Some more personal experiences to people also can settle in. One example is the need for the performer to prove themselves thus adding a kind of pressure. Maybe a concern of how someone might think of their playing. This is irrational because people always will have an opinion- usually constructive. We prefer the music slightly faster, they prefer slower. It’s personal taste. We cannot read minds but only go by our own decisions. Plus of course its impossible to please everyone.
Maybe a more rational thought there is the fear of the unknown. But something that is known is the reason why people are there is because they love music regardless.
Everyone will have a different interpretation or view; and this is something understood everywhere. When we show an active interest in what we say, it projects well with those who listen. It becomes an enjoyable experience.