Friday, 9 March 2012

I did recognise the irony.  Wanting to muse a little on the amazing powers of the human mind, specifically in relation to memory, and I couldn't damn well remember whether I'd written on the subject before!!  Just goes to show, though, what a complex and fascinating subject this is.  (Or that I am prone to forgetting quite a lot...)

What made me think was a performance yesterday after a very long and stressful day waiting with, waiting for and worrying about a friend undergoing a rather nasty operation.  I hadn't slept well the night before, either, so by the end of the day - well, by the end of what normally constitutes a working day, I was pretty much exhausted.  Except I then had to get costumed and made up and venture out onto the stage.  Now, this is a part I have done several times before.  I learned it very thoroughly at the beginning (having learned over the years that to undo mistakes takes about ten times more effort to put right than going to the trouble of taking endless care over the first studies).  I'd mentally rehearsed while I was waiting for my friend to come out of surgery.  I was prepared!

The peculiar combination of extreme tiredness and relaxing due to playing with colleagues I know and in a piece I have done over and over again, however, led to a couple of the cold-sweat moments where you hear your cue echo strangely through your brain and have absolutely NO idea what comes next.  

This is where experience kicks in, and actually, being knackered helps.  You simply have to trust the unconscious bit of your brain to come up with the goods, whilst standing aside with the conscious bit.  

Goes a bit like this:

Conscious mind ("C"):  AAAARGH what the hell comes next???

Unconscious mind ("U"):  Breathe!  It will turn up!

C:  No, really!  I am meant to be saying/singing something here and I have NO clue what it is!!

U:  Chill!  Set eyes to neutral, breathe, and trust.

C:  Ooooookay . . .  here goes! . . .

U:  (comes out with the right words, heard with fascination by C)

C:  Ahhhhhh, so THAT was what I was meant to say!!! Congratulations!

Hopefully the opera continues without many more such soul-stopping panics as this...

Really, though, you have to admire a biological structure which has all those built-in safety nets!

I must also take the opportunity to reinforce the confidence in that unconscious layer of the mind when it comes to auditions.  Doubts are so pernicious.  Learning to take a deep breath and trust to one's preparation is surely a laudable aim for a musician!

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