Do You “Play” Music?

In my experience, few things in life are more enjoyable than the act of making music. Music is fun!  How wonderful it is that we use the verb “play” to describe this endeavor!

Yet for too many musicians, the activity pursued when singing or touching their instrument couldn’t be further from play. Instead they tense up, get nervous, or even break down. “Musicing” is used as a vehicle for proving self-worth. Obsessed with impressing others and (more importantly) themselves, damning condemnations come with every mistake or less than perfect articulation.  Each time a note sounds, the ego’s Gestapo-like jury weighs in. And the verdict is usually—guilty.  No wonder so many performers look miserable on stage. No wonder so many fail to connect physically with the sounds they create, or invoke even a smile. Who could possibly enjoy this kind of constant, brutal self-interrogation?

But take a step back.  You’re not exactly doing hard physical labor, fighting a war, or stuck in a boring office job. You get to make music!  So love every moment.

Successful musical performance is not about perfection. It is about connecting with others. It’s also about empowerment and liberation and a spiritual journey into an extraordinary place that no other human experience can deliver.

Music is a blessing.  Remember this, with every wrong note you play.  Remember this every time you lose a competition or perform less than your best.  Be thankful that you can participate in such a miracle. And when you exude exuberant joy through your art, everyone around will cherish the moment as well.  We can all use more blissful energy in our life, and music is an ideal tool.

So relax. Enjoy. Play!

I had a revealing exchange with an Indonesian gamelan composer a few years back.  He told me that after each performance, the players gathered around and discussed how things went that night.  Just like we do. They would recall bloopers from the performance. Just like we do. But then the conversation would take an unfamiliar turn: “Did you hear when I clammed that note during the quiet section?”  “Yeah, that was awsome!”  And they’d laugh about it. Laugh until they turned purple. No apologies.  Ever. Because music is fun. Because music is play.

 

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