'As always, it was sheer pleasure to observe Robin Hill's remarkable fluent technique: everything looks easy when he plays it.' Colin Cooper- Classical Guitar Magazine ----- 'Wonderful for their (Hill & Wiltschinsky) precision, touch and clarity of sound... refined virtuosity, the achievement of a long interpretive process.' Il Giornale D'Italia (Rome) ----- 'I loved your CD and thought your technique and performance were fabulous...' Rick Wakeman

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sex, Drugs and Classical Music

Jessica Duchen had an interesting blog yesterday which prompted comments about musicians using drugs to cope with the stress of performing. You can read the post here.
I would think that most people can appreciate how stressful it is to be alone on stage, in front of a huge audience, and to be solely responsible for their entertainment for around 1 1/2 hours....
Some musicians turn to drugs, such as beta blockers, to help calm their nerves prior to a performance.
However it is certainly not a path that Robin has followed.
He was once prescribed them by his GP, but didn't take them, as he was more concerned that it would take the 'edge' off his playing than anything else.

Stress is a reaction to a situation.
We all need it to survive.
When you put a person in a stressful situation a surge of adrenaline is triggered.
The heart rate increases, sweat is produced, the hands start to shake and the limbs become cold, as the blood is diverted to the major organs and muscles to aid rapid escape.
That's OK when trying to run away from a tiger or when leaping out of the way of a bus.
It's not OK if the hands which are about to play the guitar have become cold and are shaking.

Musicians therefore need to learn how to cope with this.
For many years adrenaline was Robin's nightmare.
As the day of a concert got nearer the tension would mount.
The days after a concert weren't much easier, as most musicians focus solely on the one wrong note they played, and not the thousands of right ones.
Post concert post mortems were never easy.

But as a musician develops, and gains experience and confidence, he learns how to use that adrenaline to his advantage.
The musician needs to be truly prepared for the concert. By that I mean many years of practice and performances, and rehearsing pieces not to get them right, but until it's almost impossible get them wrong.
Then, and only then, is there a chance of harnessing the adrenaline rush.

Nowadays Robin deals with the stress of performance very well (but still says he would be scared if he wasn't scared).
We no longer have days of apprehension pre concert. Merely hours and hours of rehearsal.
He is also able to recognise that a concert is judged as a whole. If an audience has been entertained , and leaves the venue happy, then one important objective has been achieved.

There's no need to self medicate, just prepare, prepare and prepare again and seize any opportunity to play for an audience big or small.

Oh, and if you're wondering where the sex comes in, well, that I cannot divulge....

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