As a musician I know this – that I am most effective as a performer when I get my Self out of the way, and simply allow the music to flow through me and out. People who are listening are then much more able to hear and recognize themselves in what’s being played, and can then respond more deeply. Who I am matters, of course, and whether I’m grounded, healthy, emotionally honest and stable – but only in the way that a conduit should be strong and wide enough for the greatest amount of energy to travel through it.
In the weeks of working with the ubiquitous #Selfie phenomenon I’ve come to wonder if in fact it works this way with my face, too. I know my voice is, but my face also? An instrument?
I can’t tell what I look like when I’m in conversation with other people. I suspect, because of the wide gamut of responses I get, that I look differently to close friends than I do to colleagues, differently again to family than to strangers. A good and longtime friend remarked some months ago that he’d never seen my face look so open. In response I immediately closed it, and said, with some gruffness, “Nobody sees my face this open”. Certainly not I.
At this point I believe that my face is like a sketchbook for use by whomever I engage with. I wear it in public knowing that it’s up to me to keep it clear of furrowed brow or clenched jaw, since if that is written there I will most likely encounter anxiety, repressed anger, rigidity and emotional blocks in the people I meet.
There are at least ten thousand songs written about this.
It’s also up to me to keep my cello in tune and my bow tightened, with good rosin on the horsehair. In between painting tasks I habitually run through finger exercises, dissect and practise tricky solos to ensure that I’ll present well at the concert tomorrow.
There is personal expression, yes. But I would say that it’s an exchange of sensibilities, awareness, perception and empathies between me and you. A live improvisation, if you will. In a good conversation we reflect all of this for each other by changing the shape of our mouths, foreheads, moving our eyebrows, opening or closing our eyes, shifting our gaze away then back from each other.
My face is more familiar to you than it is to me, when all is said and done. You can tell, often before I can, whether something is wrong or right in my internal world….
I have the same odd feeling looking at this photo as I do with the back of my cello. Is THAT what I look like? It resembles me, but no, it’s only one of many possibles. I suspect I look quite different when I’m with people.
But then we need all parts – including the shadow – to describe the whole.
I have a PS.
Anyone in the area who loves smart, engaged young people should come to this concert at Meaford Hall tomorrow (Monday May 26). The GBSYO is an incredible team of folks with great energy and skill. They’ll be joined by more excellent string players from the Georgian Bay Secondary School in a massive string orchestra. I’m very excited and honoured to be part of it. Do come – I know you’ll love it.