So i was on the bus today and I saw someone who I haven’t seen or talked to for at least 3 years now. I acknowledged him but he didn’t seem to do it back or he may have just not realized who i was at the time. I spent the whole bus ride watching how he sat himself, angled himself. Essentially noticing all the little things he did. He seemed to look upset.
When it was my stop i tapped him on the shoulder and said something like “Hey man! How you been? You still playing soccer?” He smiled but it didn’t seem natural. We ended up having small talk and i proceeded to get off the bus.
It got me thinking.
Everything we do portrays emotion, giving us as the receivers a reaction or feeling about how the person is doing, creating some sort of connection. It’s just how we have evolved as humans.
Imagine if (let’s call him Jason) sat upright, smiled, and never avoided eye contact with people around him. How would we feel about him? How would we see Jason? Would I have thought there was something happening in his life? Would I have thought he was getting over something? Of course not. He would just be a happy dude whom I recognized who didn’t acknowledge me. Big deal.
So here’s something I wanted to mention. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian (author of Silent Messages) and the nonverbal Facebook group page, “7% of anything said in a face to face conversation is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc) . Subtracting the 7% for actual vocal content leaves one with the 93% statistic”. This means everything adds up in your brain to give yourself a final decision on how to approach phrasing, dynamics, word choice, physical gestures and posture to the person you are talking to to make them feel and react a certain way. For example: Jason. He was slouching (shows loss of confidence in himself), eyes were pointing to the ground (shows uncertainty, him possibly thinking about the problem) , frown on his face (upset) , head tilted (thinking or confused), and was twiddling his thumbs (showing that he was anxious towards the problem, or just wanted to get home quickly). These are all things you dont ever think about, since it happens to us as second nature.
Why does it happen second nature? Well, when it comes to evolution we have been “made” (however you wish to approach that word) with survival instincts, mating instincts, and hunting instincts. SO, seeing Jason like that automatically gives us the impression that he’s weaker than he normally is (emotionally and spiritually that is), so i wouldn’t approach him the way i would anyone else. If i were a tiger in a pack, he would have lost my respect and i would have sacrificed him if that time came, but we don’t do that (at least i hope not) because we have something called empathy and sympathy. Sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another person), and because of that we have evolved to think before we act instead of thinking of our goal and just doing it, like as we know most animals do when trying to attain something.
Now what in the world does this have to do with music?
Well first off, it has everything to do with music.
Imagine listening to a recording of your favorite Mozart or whatever concerto and you feel a certain way because of how it was phrased, how the music was constructed and performed. Great, all is good and well. The trouble comes when we perform for others where we can actually SEE YOU DOING THE PLAYING. We spend so much time on technique, and after technique we spend so much time on phrasing and “musicality” but what about the physical attributes that make up a performance? Just like talking to someone, 55% of the performance give away how you feel for it, see it, and want it to sound like (I like to call this “Showing your world”, that’s a topic for another day).
So try this. Open up your favorite live performance of any song/sonata/concerto (does not have to be classical), mute it, and just look at the physical appearance of the performer’s body, facial expressions, physical gestures. Do they look relaxed? Do they look like they’re enjoying it? Does it look forced? Do they move? Do they sway? Really analyse it. Now watch it again with the sound on, did you feel the same way towards the performance muted as you did unmuted? 60% of people I asked said they felt that they enjoyed it equally ONCE they noticed the physical attributes in the performance, 20% said they preferred it with music and 20% said they didn’t notice a difference. Of course the background of each person had a factor on my results (whether they were musically trained or not) but i think my prediction still stands. That is that people don’t realize how important the physical side of our playing affects our performance, and like talking to someone face to face, the way you position, breathe, move and look, all affect the performance more than the music itself.
We as musicians have always been told the opposite, but i think it would be a good idea to look at the other side of things since it can really change your approach on performing.
Remember, it’s all about the feeling, and that comes from the being, which comes from your natural instincts. Just being aware of them is enough. Which leads me to our next blog where we’ll talk about the difference between fake and genuine performing. I think we all need to have a little reminder about that since it correlates with everything we do.
See you soon