In everything in life, especially social interaction, there is an action and reaction or you can call it the intent and the outcome if you will. If you drop a glass cup on the floor, it breaks. If you slap someone in the face, they feel pain. If you scream in public abruptly, someone gets scared. These are all social norms that we have learned to treat as “normal” or “the usual”. Now when you perform, someone “feels”, it’s something we all go through but we don’t usually think about unless a lone and feeling analytical on oneself and others on that specific day.
Performing, in this instance, can be defined as:
“Sharing your ideas, motives and emotional values through a form of communication (playing an instrument) to help the receiver interpret the emotional plane given to them to reflect on them self”.
Before looking into the process of interpreting this emotional plane, we need to understand an example of some sort approach in the intent of why one would perform. I went for coffee with an old friend and he told me a story that intrigued me and helped me come to writing this blog for you today.
Here’s what he said:
“In high school our Vocal teacher asked us a question on the first day of class. Hes said: “Why do we sing”? To me, it was simple. I sing for the same reason I yell when i stub my toe, I sing for the same reason i cry, it just happens… A dog whines when its sad and it farts when it’s scared. Whenever i have this feeling that i can’t explain any other way besides words I sing, because i can. We have this compulsion that other humans have to know how we feel and see what’s in our mind and in our hearts, there are things that language just can’t communicate, and our bodies can’t communicate, and there are things that music can communicate that art can’t or the other way around. So It’s a form of a communication to me. Its communication of things that desperately need to be talked about because words can’t. It’s just not language in that strict sense… ”.
This led me to thinking about our intent in performing. For my musician readers: Have you ever had a lesson where you teacher turned to you and said “Can you feel like you are (enter dramatic movie scene here)”? Or maybe, “Can you pretend to be (enter dramatic character here)”? This is because you can’t explain feeling. Life is an association game. With evolution we have been derived to associate feeling, with a physical thing to compare it to or some sort of actual emotion which then leads us to approach that phrase differently...
Take a friend who just got out of a serious break up for example. Your conversation with them might go a little something like this:
“Why are you sad?”
“Well ____ just broke up with me”
(In your mind you go through a process of feeling their experience)
Relationship----->you think of love----->love means happiness------>relationships ending------>they are upset------>they have self pity-------> they are lonely------>broken up.
To which you respond:
“Dang man, I’m so sorry”.
In that one sentence of “_____ broke up with me” you went through that whole process in a max of 1/10th of a second (on average) to connect emotionally, or attempt to with your sad, lonely, single friend.
As humans, it is absolutely incredible how we can “feel” what the other person is feeling, simply by going with our gut.
If someone has an experience from within (the soul) they feel a concept, a generic concept that led to their neurons, and emotions to react in a specific form and manner. If they go through this type of experience and portray it in an ideal fashion, without you realizing it, you feel a version of their neurological and spiritual experience. It’s like having a sixth sense besides touching, smelling, seeing, listening and tasting. We have this remarkable intuitive sense for understanding other humans, because without having access to other minds were essentially dumb. We’d have nothing to feed off of to associate with yourself, our way of our surrounding and our approach to people as well as things and concepts in our lives. In the capacity of humanity ,this can help our whole approach on conceptualizing all future interactions and reactions based on this primary event. The event of using concepts known to us to make a foundation can give us something to move off of to help us connect with someone or yourself.
Essentially your reaction to anything in life involving emotions, is derived from a practice you learned from someone else, an experience you had, or something naturally given to you.
A phrase makes you feel sad:
Phrase played-------> makes you sad because of the physical phrase.....WRONG
Phrase played----> sound gives you emotion-----> emotion is derived form an experience-------> experience reminds you of the feeling you had in that instance----> you derive the emotion from the experience----> feel "an emotion"----->claim to be sad from the music when in reality it's the experience that the music gave you.
Here's proof of it in a little experiment i did a couple days ago:
I went to two close friends of mine, one does not know the other and they are both musically talented (one on Violin, the other on Viola)
I played them a snippet of a recording from my favorite sonata: Bowen sonata no.1 for Viola and Piano, specifically the 2nd movement.
I asked one to write down EMOTIONS that came to mind when she heard the snippet.
And i asked the other to write concepts. Physical experiences that came to mind.
So here's what we know:
- They both heard the same piece
- The same section
- Both musically gifted
- Both admirers of music
Here are some of the emotions written from the snippet:
And here were some of the concepts:
- Boy growing up under the sunset
- Last dinner with dieing grandfather
- A kid a lone under a tree
As im sure you can see by now (which absolutely blew my mind), a lot of the emotions were interconnected with the concepts. Both simultaneously working cohesively. This is the idea of conceptualizing. We all have the same emotions as a basis, it is what has given us the emotion that actually matter. We can both feel sad from hearing the Bowen sonata, but what is it that made you sad? It's the experience that you were reminded of that made you sad that came from the technique used to play it that way.
Like Dan mentioned in our coffee conversation above “Life is complicated and scary and it doesn’t always work with how our brain wants it to sometimes, but we go with it because we don’t know any better. Art can be viewed from an evolutionary perspective as a psychological coping mechanism. To keep the mind healthy and have it sustain the body”.
This is what performing is. It’s the process of reflecting on yourself to explain things that words cannot, or to bring people together with this feeling that we all have experienced and shared. It is all derived from our association with things that we subconsciously think and do everyday like showing sympathy, empathy, connecting with people, or even feeling physical pain when you stub your toe.
Remember that we have many different forms of “feel”: Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, and mental. They all work simultaneously to make you react and feel an emotion which is then led to you distributing that emotion through physical norms within your performance which is your genetically modified way of showing that instantaneous feeling received and shared.
Think back to before modern instruments were made. What did people do to bring people together? They sang. They had no instruments to sustain and connect people emotionally and spiritually. They used a physical thing (the vocal cords) to create something apparently UN-explainable (the emotion derived from singing) and they somehow all felt it as a group. Music has evolved from singing. It is something that has cleansed the souls of humans and has deliberately changed everyone’s approach to life, speech, self reflection and views on others. All through this feeling derived from singing or playing a song…..Crazy isn’t it?
With all this being said Charles Darwin (scientist on natural selection) was actually confused by music. He had no doing with it. It is a long concurrent argument on his statement of: Music has not helped evolution in any way, animals have evolved to live, eat, create and learn throughout all our generations and music has nothing to do with any of those processes. When actually music is a HUGE co-helper with evolution and building up the ecosystem as a whole (this is will be one of the next blog’s main topics), but i’ll just say this. It has been proven that plants (specifically corn) actually grow faster when classical music plays during its growing time. I will explain specifics and the process in another blog, just figured it was a cool thing to mention!
The world and the mind can be a very scary place, but it changes how we approach and perform something. Like Dan said “Perform the unexplained”. Music is like explaining the 6th sense mentioned. We just know its there, but we don’t know what it is. What it REALLY IS. That’s the magic behind it. It's like seeing a new color, you can't but is there one? You can't even fathom to think about it. It's the same thing with feeling.
Join me next time where I continue on this discussion of persona and explain a little more about the psychology behind it!
Till next time!