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Attention!

An article about performing-Arts and music-related topic

By Ralph Schatzki

for La CoffeeMelodie Suite



  • Attention!



  • As a performer of live music, where do you focus your attention while in the midst of a performance? This, to me, is an interesting consideration since you have to juggle the demands of your craft - your technique, if you will- with the need to connect with your audience.


    Put another way, how much do you break through the fourth wall, consciously or not, and how much do you strive to maintain your character and musical persona behind it?


    Depending on whether or not the performance is staged, semi-staged or in concert, whether it is an audition or competition, or whether there are there costumes, sets, props and lights, can all influence your decision. And of course, let's not forget to mention the most important thing of all: you, the performer. How do you feel about it?


    Cinematic actors don't have to worry about this, for they have movie cameras and microphones all around them. They just have to be their character and the director and film editors do the rest. This is hardly an easy task, however, for it takes an incredibly disciplined individual to do this well. How distracting must it be to have everyone around you, knowing their equipment is picking up every nuance of speech and gesture, while you have to maintain focus?


    Still, it is not a balancing act: if you remain 100% in character then you've done your job. There's no decision to be made.


    Performing live is a different thing entirely. Not only must one speak, sing and gesture in a way that it is visible and audible to everyone, but he must also play to the imaginary fourth wall that separates stage from spectator. Lack of awareness in this respect translates to a poor performance, with lines, expressions and gestures getting lost in the wings or upstage, or in self-indulgent introspection.


    In addition, there is immediate feedback: you can tell if you're reaching the members of the audience - or, far worse, leaving them cold - and try to adjust accordingly. It's a wonderful way to hone your craft and improve your performance, all at the same instant!


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    Nevertheless, there must be something in your performance that remains "true:" true to the character, true to the musical intent of the composer, true to the director's concept. You cannot pander to the audience and put yourself above the art itself. Artistic integrity should never be compromised.


    I also really dislike seeing performers who swing completely the opposite way from movie actors, engaging the audience in an insincere or totally shallow manner. To me, they are no better than the ones who indulge only themselves.


    It is really a fine skill to learn how to balance the art with the need to communicate. Only a few master it, and their efforts are on a far different level from those blah performances one usually sees.



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