PIANO: Finding the authentic self
Hi fellow practitioners of music!
I wanted to share a beautiful teaching moment from early February. I have a very bright student whose mind is always running 10,000 miles a minute. She likes to process out loud (meaning that she is constantly talking). She is very quick but sometimes her playing is a little unfocused with lots of stops and starts.
I asked her to try this exercise which I called "kinesthetization"...it's like visualization except with a kinesthetic emphasis---picture how things feel rather than how things look. I asked her to close her eyes and use her mind to create the exact pressure under her fingers, the feel of the instrument, the feel of the gesture that she would need to do to create her desired sound.
She was quiet for almost 5 minutes. Emerging from the stillness, she slowly opened her eyes and placed her hands in position.......and created a sound that was focused but too loud/aggressive. I quickly asked her if it matched the sound she had in her head and she said no....so I asked her to repeat the exercise (for about 30 seconds this time). This time.....MAGIC! The sound was perfect. The timing, the volume, the execution, all very masterfully done.
This exercise gave her a measuring stick. Instead of wildly reacting to and pushing against her sound, worried that others won't like it, her job became to prepare and match her inner and outer sounds. This process gave her back her autonomy, her independence and a measure of control. The poise and calm confidence with which she struck that beautiful chord was breath-taking. The success came not from the kinesthetization exercise alone---it came because she had thoroughly prepared the sound, and used her internal measuring stick to create a better result(rather than an external person's opinion).
We say music is an expressive art. We lose this often, because we worry about doing well, pleasing our teachers, pleasing the audience. So we end up expressing our own anxiety and we never do our best.
Kinesthetization may not work for you. (or it might!) However, I urge you to cultivate and express an inner sound to express today. Even if it's just a quarter note. Even if it's just an eighth note. Don't count on your teacher or anyone else outside you to tell you if it's "right" or "wrong." Use your own instincts, your own preference, your own ears. Be very specific about what you want...and find a way to match your inner concept with your outer execution. We call a person authentic when their inner and outer selves match. Surely it's no different with making music......