It might not be "New Year" any more, and most people have probably already broken their New Year's resolutions (easy for me – I didn't make any!), and got over the guilt after all the overindulgence of the Christmas festivities. The Christmas season brings us in touch with family and friends – some of whom we see only at this time of year.
Unfortunately, much of this communication has become strangely detached from reality – people request to be "friends" on Facebook without a word of introduction or any reason for wanting to become "friends"!Communication has become especially easy these days, with high-speed internet connections, and with the social networking of Facebook and Twitter, we are communicating a lot more, and a lot faster than we used to.
It has become the faceless side of social networking – more akin, in some cases, to "antisocial networking." It's actually like writing an old-fashioned letter (you remember, with pen and ink?) but then writing nothing but your name and address; or writing an email, but then not putting anything in the main body of the message. Do these people really think that anyone is going to be interested in communicating with someone who has not even made the effort to write anything about themselves, or offer any clues as to why they want to be "friends"?
This isn't supposed to be a personal gripe – it's actually a reminder to us as horn players that saying something and communicating it in your performances are also vital parts of making a good musical impression.
Making contact with your audience is the only way to bring your performance to life and to draw listeners into your music making. As in making contact the conventional way, you need to say something sincerely when you play, not just go through the motions of playing the notes (always play the music, not the notes!). I hear some of you saying, "but I struggle just to get the notes, how can I hope to play musically?!" Getting the notes and playing musically are two separate things. One can play all the notes but unmusically; likewise, one can play very musically but play some wrong notes! Many players can impress technically, but few have something to say musically.
You may ask how one can achieve better communication with your audience/jury? – well, playing like you mean it – expressing yourself in the music goes a long way, and will score points. Take risks and commit yourself – don't just play safe. Try to sing the phrase within, especially in a melodic line – always following the direction of the phrase and the musical line – achieving this gives the music its necessary sense of logic and understanding. The reason this helps is that when you sing, you need to keep the air moving to enable the vocal chords to vibrate, otherwise nothing comes out – and this air flow is the very same air we need in our horn playing – and therein lies the key!
So, in all the ways in which we endeavour to make contact with people, whether on Facebook or on the stage, please do make every effort to say something!
On a last note, now that the festive season is past and we are considering attending a workshop or two, please get in your early registration for the 43rd IHS Symposium in San Francisco, hosted by Wendell Rider, from 20th-25th June (more details in this issue and on the IHS website). It promises to be a very special event in one of the most attractive and exciting cities in the world. Why not take some time out and combine the Symposium with a holiday – now that sounds like a good idea…
All the best for an exciting and successful 2011!