in Robert Levin’s talk on wednesday, he mentioned how one of the things that makes music (and performances) exciting is that feeling of risk, not knowing what the performer might do or if they’ll come out alive. i completely agree with this concept but today, in rehearsal, i had to wonder…when does calculated risk turn into unbridled fear?
most of the composers whose music we tend to play, thankfully, are dead. and unless the world goes all 28 days later, Beethoven isn’t going to pop out of his grave and yell at us when we play Eroica. so because of that, and that crazy notion that music is never static, we take calculated risks with our performances, within reason. the payoff is an audience that’s been surprised, moved, etc. but the key component to this is the “calculated” part. and the most important part is that everyone involved needs to know that this is the case. so if you’re in an orchestra and you don’t understand what the conductor is trying to do up through the performance, whatever changes they may have made, risks they may have taken, weren’t calculated to you.
adrenaline can be our friend, it can give us a clarity of thought that can allow us to accomplish amazing things. it can also stop you dead in your tracks. so the fear i feel when onstage without the “calculation” doesn’t push me to edge of the precipice in order to look over the edge, it kicks me down the damn mountain. and then what the audience hears is not passion and danger but chaos. and no one responds well to chaos.
i have a concert tomorrow. it will be all manner of things, i’m sure. but it’s this one instance when i wish we could leave the chaos at home.