-Gary Zukav, The Seat of the Soul
The last several years I have observed numerous performing ensembles across St. Louis, including our highly acclaimed and award-winning symphony orchestra, local bands, jazz artists, operas, professional choirs, and nearly two dozen concerts in 2014 alone at larger venues from our arenas to major amphitheaters.
The ‘hot topic’ question if you are a performing musician of any nature is whether you perform for the joy of music or the paycheck? Maybe it’s both. Does the emotional output of your performance depend on the dollar amount? Does your performance change according to the number in the audience?
Sadly, and my primary point of frustration, is that musicians tend to think non-musicians or ‘common listeners’ can’t tell the difference when performances are void of said honesty; however, the problem is they actually can…
A musician is musical when their music making elicits an emotional response from players and listeners. To be musical is to ‘make music like God makes trees’ – that is, in a manner and style that is natural and consistent with the performer’s personality, intellect and intimate emotional capacity. Being musical is more than juggling notes; it’s what’s inside the notes. One’s music making should awaken the soul.
–Frank Battisti from Eugen Migliaro Corporon, “Principles for Achievement, Enhancing Musicianship, and Valued Colleges” in Teaching Music though Performance in Band, Vol. 8
Soulful music making is less common than you may realize as the act of vulnerability escapes many performers, music educators, and conductors. These individuals learn the mechanics of their instrument, understand the auditory responses to musical formulas, music theory, and understand the art of practice. Commonly referred to as ‘music technicians,’ these performers miss the mark as their ability to create honest, vulnerable music eludes their psyche, or heart in metaphorical terms. We have a responsibility to convey honest musicianship to our students as well, but it’s easier said than done when the ‘stuff’ of life removes us from pure translucency.
One's innermost spiritual seat, the place from which all musical impulse grows and is nourished, can only be accessed through time spent with one's self. Time for reflection. Time for listening to one's inner voice, which, when heard, speaks ultimate truth which is then reflected in music.
-James Jordan, The Musician's Soul
Master cellist, teacher, conductor, composer, and music philosopher, Pablo Casals, was quoted saying, “The written note is like a straight jacket.” As human beings first, who happen to be musicians, our job is to create an emotional response. Audience and paycheck aside, if you open your case, begin a vocal warm-up, or grab your baton without the intent to pour your entire selfless being into the impending performance, then it is time to consider whether you are helping or hurting your field.
Being able to open oneself to the ensemble, to the audience or to the classroom makes an assumption that one can be open to oneself and vulnerable to the world at large. That is, the musician has the ability to be himself devoid of ego, and that he is able to travel to the place within himself where all impulses for making music live. One can only access that place through quietness and calm.
–James Jordan, The Musician’s Soul
If you feel reflection time may be in order, then I suggest ripping the spirit back to the studs with one of the above authors and philosophers.