This post was prompted by a conversation over the weekend with a piano friend of mine: we were discussing ways in which students can free themselves from the constraints that prevent them from giving their all in a performance situation, and the expression “playing naked” came up, which I thought very appropriate. It refers not to a means of dealing with performance anxiety where one imagines that the entire audience is naked (an empowering way of turning the dynamic in a stressful situation), but to giving oneself permission to stand back from the music, to let go, and to play with passion and commitment.
If you are naked at the piano, whether literally or metaphorically, there is nowhere to hide, and you must do everything in your power to distract the audience from your “nakedness”. (Those of us who perform, and who suffer from the anxiety of performance, may well have had the dream/nightmare where we are in a performance situation without the protective carapace of clothes.), So, do you run screaming from the stage, or do you face up to the challenge?
Playing “naked” means:
- Stripping away inhibitions, over interpretation, unnecessary gestures, and pretentions
- Giving yourself up to the music
- Playing with heart and soul
- Believing completely in what you do
- Fearless and focussed performance
- Playing “for the love of music” (Rostropovich), with a vibrant sound and charismatic rhythm which radiates authority and emotion
- Precise execution from well-honed technique
- Crafting confidence and developing a positive response to stress
- Finding meaning, desire and depth in your performance