Monday, November 28, 2011

Interesting experience

"All right, Mr. DeMille . . ."

Almost two months ago, I was asked if I'd be interested in playing the piano for a two- to four-minute video to be posted online. My first thought was, "What's wrong with good old audio? Got plenty of those already." My next was, "Hmmm. A challenge. Why not? What's the worst that could happen?" So I agreed.

Next I had to decide what to play. First thought: "Better do something easy." Second thought: "This is a great opportunity to display my obsession with Bach -- and find out if I can do it under pressure." After some more consideration, I decided to stick with my most recently learned prelude and fugue set -- WTC I/18, in G sharp minor.

I thought I knew these pretty well, and of course I had already recorded and posted them here, but continuing to practice them for another six+ weeks was, as usual, enlightening. Every time I sat down at the piano, I would play them first, cold, from memory. I could play through both pieces with assurance as long as no one else was in the room. But I knew I did not know them as well as I should. For one thing, though I could look at a measure, put the book away, and play to the end of the piece, I could not do this from any place in the piece without taking that look first. But I kept chipping away, trying to get better at this. I also kept trying to play as slowly as possible, which is harder than one might think. Every place I stumbled or hesitated, I went over: Am I using the best fingering? What exactly is going on there?

The date for the taping grew closer; my performance jitters increased. The video aspect stepped this up many notches. I had to think about how I looked, raising all kinds of personal demons. I also didn't know what the piano would be like, or even what the people involved would be like.

The night before, my normally resilient stomach went into overdrive, and I sat up until 3 a.m. feeling like I was going to hurl. I finally crawled to bed and was able to go to sleep with my intestinal dignity intact.

After that low point, the experience itself turned out not to be so bad. The people were very nice and easy going, the piano was a lovely older Steinway in a calm setting, and I was able to play with some semblance of mastery. We did more than one take so we could get several angles, and by the fourth one I was even enjoying it. I think I did okay. But even if it turns out I didn't (the proof is in the playback), this was really an excellent thing for me to have done. It was a great lesson in how to put aside thoughts of inadequacy and just work with what I had at the moment to try to make music.

But it was so tiring!!!

So it's in the can (unless the camera wasn't actually on or something). I will post a link when it's available.

No comments: