you can't make me

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I am not a musical Svengali. 

I don't have magical musical powers and I know for certain that I cannot control the heads and hearts of the people listening to me feel anything. I can't make them.

(Maybe I can get them to feel rage as I miss the umpteenth high note. Yep. Or maybe pity or embarrassment, and impatience for me to get off stage and stop wasting their time - thank you, passengers

Come to that, I am not even sure that any particular piece music can even deliberately evoke a specific emotion, although this study and I'm sure many more suggest otherwise.

I think it might be easier for singers to evoke emotions, when words are involved, and as an extension of this, also maybe for actors? They have a story to tell - we can be hooked into an actual narrative that stirs up universal human feelings. Instrumental music leaves so much more room for individual performer intention and listener interpretation.

Another aspect of this question of emotion in performance, is whether we really want to see performers actually experiencing genuine emotions on stage, especially negative and unpleasant ones.  Do people come to a concert to see a performer experience the emotions of a panic attack? Do we want to see a performer express real anger when their e string on their Stradivarius snaps? Don't we want to see the artifice of 'art' - smoothed over, packaged and controlled representation of human experience? 

I think this might be part of the stage fright problem in a way. The culture of 'culture' is that we are not real and genuine people in that moment - we are playing the part of the polished performer. We put on our performer mask for the audience and give them what they came for, what we think they want. What we have wanted when we have sat in the audience. Maybe.

I was reminded tonight of a tv performance of a now very famous soprano - she cried actual tears as she was singing an aria about something which I have now forgotten. I do remember feeling almost embarrassed watching her, and perhaps felt manipulated by her tears. It felt as if she had stepped over some invisible artistic line, a dividing line between the real person and the performer.

I felt like I had been played for a sucker. And you can't make me.

Deborah HartComment