We, the performers, often take for granted that people come to our performances to simply listen to us playing the piano. We might assume that audiences simply come to us, for us. And so, since they come to us, instead of the other way around, they must unconditionally accept the things that we have to offer.
However, we mustn’t forget that audiences have personalities and “egos” as well, and inevitably, they can also be indifferent to some of the things that emanate from us.
In this article we talk things that don’t interest an audience.
An audience is not interested in some of the following:
- Your feelings; audiences couldn’t care less if you are kind, serene, a humanitarian, or an art lover, I’m afraid. They didn’t come to your concert to buy a painting you liked in the Met last week.
- Your emotions; The audience don’t want anything to do with what triggered your anxiety after calling your bank this morning. They demand to listen to the Moonlight sonata if they may.
- What you think of yourself; Maybe you love yourself or maybe you hate yourself, but the audience doesn’t mind at all either way.
- Your physical shape at the time of your performance. They’re not in the least interested to know if you’re in pain because you twisted your ankle, or if you have a stiff neck because you didn’t do your weekly class of Pilates.
- If you like the music you’re playing; Really, they’re so uninterested in that.
- If you like the piano of tonight’s venue; Audiences are completely unmoved by your opinion that the piano you are about to perform on cannot project your “subtle techniques” or “expressive nuances” in Chopin’s fourth Ballade. So, on with performing, please!
- Your attire. I mean, don’t really play the Appassionata wearing a wetsuit and you’ll be fine. No need to be wearing colorful jackets, backless dresses or extravagant bow ties, except, of course, if you want to distract your audience from your mediocre pianism; then you must.
- Your own understanding of the music you are playing in that concert; zilch caring, too.
- Your general music expertise; The audience didn’t pay your ticket because, say, you harmonise correctly a bassline, or you are very good in dectée, or you can write an in depth structural analysis on Schnittke’s second piano sonata.
- Your numerous musical and theoretical qualifications, such as degrees, certificates, doctorates, Phd’s, Post Docs and the rest of noise that actually did nothing less than stopped you from practising the piano when it mattered the most.
- Your other qualifications, such as your degree in law, or your Bachelors with honours in Agriculture; do I need to elaborate more on this?
- If you are rich or poor; not a difference to them at all. They’ve already paid the ticket to your concert and made a reservation at the Italian restaurant later on. You are heading back home on a train, so relax.
- What are your future goals; I mean, by all means record Medtner’s complete piano sonatas, or finish up the last act on your Opera, but tonight is neither the time nor the place to discuss it. Just play the piano if you don’t mind.
- Your character. When the audience comes to see you play Schubert, they don’t care if you are well-mannered, compassionate, loyal, strict, easily offended, irate, or that you like the cats. They’d rather heard you… um, let me think, oh yes… PLAY THE PIANO.
- Your political, or other personal views; I’ve never heard of a member of the audience saying he particularly liked an iteration of the Cadenza in Beethoven’s third piano concerto, but hated the rest because the pianist voted liberal in the previous general election.
So, yes, we are performers! Congratulations! Let’s give ourselves a pat in the back. And if there was a PhD in “audience pleasing” we’ll be sure the first to get it. However, we need to get off our high horse at once, and think about our audiences as well! Let’s stop delusioning. Can it really be that an audience is only interested in us and our “unique” personality traits? How much more self-centered can we be if we believed that?
Do I sound harsh and horrible? Yes, I do sound harsh and horrible and, please, feel free to condemn me and liberally add to my list of horribleness. If anything I should have been harsher though. Because I have a mission with these writings of mine. To help the gullible pianists become realistic and, well, less gullible and face the realities in their art.
So, when you perform, it’s not only about you. It’s also about your audience. On with your practising.
© Nikos Kokkinis 27th of February 2019
Many thanks to Radek Grzybowski for his Wonderfull image used in this article. For more images visit the link below.