Tuesday, February 19, 2019

I (Stevie) Wonder Why I Dance When I Play

It's time for me to address something I've never addressed. It's something I've thought about, but never too seriously. But I think I'm at a point where I need to think about it.

I dance with I play. Call it channeling Stevie Wonder, but I sway and rock and move. Even worst, my body contorts a little bit, sometimes in ways that aren't all that attractive. When I see other classical pianists play this way, I find it distracting, and it sends out a (however unconscious) message that the performance is about the performer's emotional state, rather than about the music itself.

It's an unconscious thing with me. I only know that I do it because I've been told, sometimes in painfully polite terms. Once, after playing my Bach C#-major prelude and fugue for a class, one of the visiting professors asked, "Do you suffer from back pain?" He went on to say that I looked uncomfortable when I played.

No, I'd actually been extremely comfortable and very much "into" what I'd been playing. But my body contorts and I'm not sure what to do about it, other than force myself to think about staying still.

I do the same thing when I sing. My voice teacher has called attention to this fact, explaining that all of this upper-body swaying is not helping my voice because it is keeping me constantly off-balance.

My response: "Was I swaying?"

I do it when I write, too. When I'm really into writing, I start rocking and swaying. I guess maybe it's the whole creativity-as-religious-experience thing, and yes, it's great that I feel art with such intensity that it courses through my entire body, but ...

It's got to stop. Or at least I need to learn to control the outward expression of it.

I want it to stop. Not only do I not want my body to distract an audience from the music, but the swaying is hurting my piano-playing as well. As with the balance-thing in voice, it's hard to play with consistent weight on the keys when you're constantly moving.

This may require me to make some videos of myself playing (which I will not share here!). Because I don't realize what I'm doing, I'm not sure how to stop. I think I may try to channel Horowitz, who remains to still that sometimes his hands don't even seem to be moving. But I think will be the best first step to learning to control the unconscious movement.

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