This is kind of an odd topic because I’m sure many of you have experienced both extremes in performance. Sometimes you will see someone who barely moves at all during a performance and looks robotic. Other times you might see someone who is very demonstrative and animated in their movements. So is there a right or wrong way to move during a musical performance? How much attention should you give this subject?
Sometimes this can actually be part of the act and can bring people into the performance. Lang Lang is a pianist who is extremely demonstrative during his performances and he will often motion and smile to the audience while he is playing. You get the sense he is enjoying his performance and for many people that draws them in making his performances more engaging. He is also very good at giving the audience cues as to when the exciting parts are coming and when they should be feeling certain emotions. Some people might scoff at this technique and think that eliciting emotions in this manner from the audience might be a superficial way of maintaining their attention. But it works well for him and isn’t necessarily a gimmick; it can be considered an integral part of his performance.
Sometimes motion can actually be a detriment to the artist. Some musicians let themselves go too much and actually affect their performance in negative ways. Glenn Gould, for example, would sometimes even create sounds while playing so they had to place a screen between him and the microphones during recording sessions. If they didn’t, the noises would be captured in the recording. In a concert hall you probably wouldn’t hear these sounds but in recordings, it could become distracting.
So how does this happen? At some point, a performer develops mannerisms while playing and their teacher never stopped it! They continued to play this way and eventually, it developed into something beyond their control. An extreme example of demonstrative playing is Keith Jarrett. He stands up and gyrates around the piano during performances! People seem to love or hate it – it gets a reaction.
Motion in performance elicits some sort of reaction from your audience. The bigger the motions the more polarized the reactions will be. Is this something you should control during your playing? It’s really up to you. While I’m sure you don’t want people being overly critical of your motions and find them distracting, but you don’t people to feel you are lifeless if you sit completely still either. It’s a delicate balance and you must decide what’s right for you.
I’m very interested in your opinions on this topic. Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729