Disconnection, connecting and reconnecting.
I have been quiet for a while. I had a couple of blog posts planned but then everything changed overnight with the arrival of Covid-19 in Norway in March. Somehow the subjects I had written about didn’t seem important anymore and staying safe and keeping others safe became my priority.
I sincerely hope that everyone who is reading this is well both physically, financially and otherwise! These have certainly been unusual, testing and interesting times!
I have been thinking about the concept of connections recently. With the Corona virus many of us have had our connections broken in various ways. Some of us have not been able to meet family and friends. Many musicians have not been able to connect musically with colleagues and audiences. Many people have had a serious disconnection with their wages. It has been dramatic for some and less so for others. Some people however seem to be connecting with people in new ways, and others are reconnecting with activities they have not had time to focus on for some time.
I started to think about this recently because I will soon be playing a concert again with an actual live audience. It will be my first time performing for a live audience since February. As it has been such a long time since I «connected» with an audience I wanted to be more aware of the connection between the feelings and shapes within the music and communicating that to the audience. I wanted to be mindful of the act of sharing with purpose.
This is why I started to think about how important connections, communication and relationships are on so many levels. On a personal level we are dependent on our human relationships. Something that many people have experienced on a completely new level this year. But there are levels of communication and connecting everywhere.
How has this affected musicians and our craft?
Quite early on during the lockdown in Norway I was asked to play a live digital concert. That is to say I played a concert on the 25th of March, it was recorded «Live» without any editing or repetitions, but it was not broadcast until April.
It was quite early on in our lockdown in Norway and I guess I was in a slight shock. My kids were at home 24 hours doing school digitally, I was not traveling anymore and there was nothing to practice for. Festivals, concerts, and my orchestral concerts all got cancelled in just a few days.
When I arrived for the digital concert I was met by a producer, a cleaner, and 3 people who were working with the sound and picture for the recording.
I was given time to warm up in the hall and the whole thing felt strange. It was the middle of the day, there was no audience and whilst I was warming up the few people there were talking, fixing problems, and running around, whilst the cleaner seemed to be spraying, cleaning, and mopping constantly. The atmosphere was not particularly magical. I felt disconnected.
Whilst I warmed up I purposely focussed on the reason I had been asked to do the concert. Most people who usually would have attended concerts were now isolated from their family and friends, and from their jobs and colleagues, and of course their musical experiences. My purpose was to try to connect an experience as well as I could, through a camera lens and microphone.
I’m not sure how well I managed. It was a challenge to connect when everything had become so disconnected.
Perhaps I had taken communication for granted? Through playing with colleagues and in front of audiences frequently and constantly being focussed on learning the next «thing» it is easy to become very focussed on oneself. I think the lockdown has given me a reason to refocus on this area. One of the most important reasons for playing concerts is to share and connect. The audience needs to perceive what it is you are creating. This area needs our attention.
I am experimenting with ways in which to practice this.
Here are some of my approaches:
Practice playing for a photo of people where you try to «get their attention».
Practice playing to a large photo or painting of a person. (Here is me playing to a painting of my father!)
Practice playing for cushions and teddies in the sofa.
Film yourself. Imagine you are at a family dinner and you are telling the story.
It is of course important to mention that it is easier to communicate if you have a clear idea of the feeling, the atmosphere and the shapes and phrasing in the music so I usually spend a fair bit of time doing this first.
It would be great to hear any ideas from any readers!