20th century music and “stage fright”

I love 20th century music! I think it’s fantastic, and a perfect example of the way that a new form of music can embrace and reflect a full compass of human emotion.

Lennon/McCartney, Carole King, Jeff Lynne, Blondie …

Oh. 🙂

There’s a lot of music in the 20th century, you know.

On another topic, I found an interesting comment over at SRC recently. I too — and I have a lot of company — heard from my teacher and the adults around me that stage fright meant you hadn’t practiced enough. Performance was always uniformly a misery for me, and I truly regret not realizing that the adults around me were full of shit before stopping piano study. Keating is completely correct: the “cure” is to just do it, and in situations that make it clear that the cast majority of people are not stopping to listen because they want to see if you will screw up that trill in measure 15, but because they simply like the sound. I never made that connection. At this point, I’m not sure I want to either. It’s been engrained in me enough that I am still happiest playing and writing with my headphones on.

However, there is a wrinkle for pianists.

We can’t exactly take our instrument outside and just randomly start busking in the mall or a local garden. When I was a kid, we didn’t have the money for me to get a back brace much less a gigging keyboard, nor were there any good-quality ones unless you played synth. Listen to that “Escape” interview I linked to earlier where Jonathan Cain reminisces about a massive Wurlitzer keyboard that he had that he now laughingly says was considered “portable” at the time. Not only was it out of the question as something that a teenager could heft around on a whim, but it was probably quite expensive. Pianists are bound to the whale, chained to a massive, unportable monstrosity. We really are locked in a practice room, and on the very, very rare occasions where a piano will be extant for us to mess around on — in a bar, for example, it has usually not been maintained or even tuned since the Nixon administration. Hit one note, and earwigs are likely to start crawling out from under the fallboard. If the chosen key even depresses, that is. If it’s in better shape, as on a cruise ship or a hotel lobby, the fallboard has been padlocked shut. It’s a bit easier nowdays given that gigging keyboards are cheaper and better quality lately, but it still means owning several instruments, plus an amp. That requires a lot of planning for a so-called “impromptu” busk.

No wonder all the successful organists are so flashy. If you aren’t an inherent show-off, you haven’t a chance in hell on that thing. It’s a building for pete’s sake.