Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hearing with Your Eyes

Back in my Air Force Band days, we were reminded to look sharp when on stage. This not only meant keeping our uniforms in order but also meant no slouching or crossing legs while on stage. That's when I first heard it:

"Remember, people hear with their eyes."

At first I took this to mean that our audiences were not always the most cultured group and thus relied on appearances. I haven't stopped thinking about it. There's more to consider here.

I'm a pretty casual person but I can't deny the importance of stage presence. Recently, I adjudicated a student recital by listening to the CD. My voting was more positive than that of other faculty who attended the recital. They saw a number of nervous mannerisms that I couldn't hear on the tape.

It's hard to separate what we see from what we hear. Should we?

When I watch a performer walk on stage, their manner creates an expectation of what I'm going to hear. I'm not sure of the validity of this, but I do believe it's true.

Here's a weird thought. If you adopt the posture and mannerisms of a poised, relaxed, confident performer is there a chance that you'll create a positive expectation for your own performance?

In essence, do you hear your own performance with your eyes?

As an experiment, try playing the same passage twice, first adopting the manner of confident, relaxed virtuoso with every expectation of success. The second time through, adopt the manner of a nervous player with serious self doubts.

I wonder which rendition will be better?