Posted by: yoko | June 25, 2004

Beauty and the Big Picture

Music sample: second movement of the clarinet sonata by Camille Saint-Saens, as performed by my sister and me, 2002. Recorded by Chris.(approx. 1 MB, mp3)

As a rule, I try not to dwell on past performances. I usually listen to a playback shortly after a concert, make mental notes for the future, and then forget about it. I don’t like listening to myself over and over. I’ll pull out a recording a couple of years after the performance, just to compare my remembered feeling of the music versus what was actually recorded.

It’s a constant exercise of matching my feeling with what actually comes out of my instrument. They are often very disparate perceptions. Part of it is acoustics– the vibrations that reverberate between my ears are not wholly the sounds that are projecting from the instrument several inches away from my ears. Part of it is that monkeymind internal voice that sometimes nags: get that high note. breathe more– you need to make it to that measure! that note coming up is going to be sharp– fix it!

The critic then talks throughout the playback. Sometimes it’s good: ooh, nice phrasing there. beautiful tapering off. nice balance with the piano. Other times, it points out flaws: ouch, that squeak! hey, why did you play that note tenuto the first time and staccato the second? that wasn’t in sync with the piano.

That critical voice is so loud sometimes, that I am startled to hear when someone from the audience says something unexpected, such as “I can tell you studied with so-and-so– you have shades of his sound.” or “When you play, I can hear how much you love the music.” The flaws are flaws– the emotion and the beauty come through in spite of the flaws, and that is what every musician strives for.

I hope to have a good performance this time around as well.



  1. wow! that really makes me want to take up playing the clarinet again. lovely!

  2. Awesome post! Whatever monkeymind is, I can totally relate.

  3. As someone who doesn’t play an instrument, but would LOVE to, I find this entry so interesting! Gives me a peek into the world of a musician…

  4. how inspiring!


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