It wasn’t extremely special, just a run-of-the mill Sunday, where life goes on as usual. This particular Sunday, I was providing the music for the postlude at the end of the church service. Since I help with music during church services quite often, I didn’t view my performance as something out of the ordinary; it was just a normal occasion.
I was playing “Meditation” from Thaïs by Jules Massenet, one of the more famous works for violin. The preparation of the piece wasn’t that unusual either. I experienced the moments when I was in love with the piece and how I was interpreting it, and the moments when I was very frustrated, when all I wanted to do was put the piece in a drawer and never look at it again. I had also been studying the piece for a while with my teacher. I had spent the week prior to that Sunday practicing “Meditation,” and I was about ready to play it once more, in church, then not look at it for a good long time.
One of the things my teacher emphasized in practice was putting character into the music I was playing. It may seem ironic at first to people who don’t play music, but to convey your emotions, you have to have a distant and detached, unemotional relationship with your music. You put your character into the piece by the way you phrase the melodies, and contour the dynamics (how loud or soft you play). Once you have that unemotional relationship with the piece, you can play it without getting too involved because you’re not working too hard trying to play what you want to hear. Adding a bit of your soul into your playing once you have that unemotional relationship makes it seem like you are putting everything you have into your piece, while you remain calm and levelheaded. In performance, then, you are able to be quite detached from the music, and can add your spur of the moment personality that makes the performance what it is.
When I watch the recording of that performance, I see the many places I can still improve, but all flaws aside, that Sunday morning, I had finally achieved the unemotional relationship with the piece, and was able to put just a little bit of myself into it. I had prepared so well that I didn’t have to think about every little detail. I could relax and make sure I was making the music that my heart wanted to make all along. It felt like I was “in” the music, but at the same time it was like I was watching myself perform. I experienced a feeling that came from somewhere bigger than myself. It wasn’t just me putting myself into the piece; it was everything that I could have wanted at that exact moment in time. Since music is very spiritual for me, the experience was one of great joy, because I was able to create something that not only affected me spiritually, but it was something I could share with a community of people that I enjoy spending time with. My experience may have been a “religious” experience, or it may have been a “Godly” experience, but I like to think of it as an experience that was created by the power of music.
Anna Hallett is an aspiring musician, who, in her non-existent spare time, likes to read, write, and knit. She is a freshman in high school, and lives in York, Pennsylvania.
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