Monday, January 03, 2011

More than Perfect

Black Swan is a movie that sticks with you in a somewhat haunting way for some time after you see it.  Its complexity allows it to be viewed on many different levels.
But one of the themes is the desire of the protagonist Nina to be perfect.  She practices until her feet are bloody to thoroughly master every jump and spin that she needs to perform the lead role in Swan Lake.  
But until the end of the movie when it is too late to save herself she misses out on the emotions that must accompany the technique for it to be successful.  Her swan song (so to speak) is the most exquisite performance of her life.
The same concept of perfectionism extends to all the arts.  I thought about it even yesterday as Deborah and I played in our “Works in Progress” group.  We’re playing the Beethoven horn sonata, a piece that is perhaps the most challenging piano score I have ever attempted.  At our last lesson with our coach Bill, he admonished me to play through the mistakes, never dwelling on a missed note.  Until yesterday my tendency had been to stop and regroup if I made a mistake.  But I finally determined to just keep going and we did.  It was far from perfect, but it was by far our best performance of the sonata.
I then went on to play two of Astor Piazzolla’s tangos.  Music doesn’t get much more emotional than that.  They weren’t perfect either, but it was the hauntingly beautiful tango melody with its somewhat offbeat quality that stuck in my listeners’ ears.
There is no substitute for practice, but at some point the adrenaline of emotion must kick in for dance or music to come alive, to jump off the score.  


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hear, hear! Congratulations on your breakthrough performance! I wholeheartedly agree. It took me a long time myself to grow through the paradox that the only way (for me) to achieve moments of artistic integrity/excellence was to, paradoxically, let go of that goal with a willingness to fall flat on my face, make "mistakes," etc.

Ansel Adams supposedly said, "The perfect is the enemy of the good." And Salvador Dali supposedly said, "Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it." Love it!!


12:35 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

Way to go Barbara and Deborah! Eventually that fear of falling on your face and lack of perfection translates to what I call successful faking which is an important performance skill to develop for your audience. If they can't tell you are having issues, their enjoyment will not be interrupted and replaced by concern or sympathy. It sounds like you guys found that magical flow that can happen during a performance which has absolutely nothing to do with perfection and everything to do with giving everything you have in that moment to the audience.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Congratulations on a job well done and well lived. There's no substitute for knowing what to do, but it can only go so far without passion. One of my favorite things in the world is to watch people doing the things that they love - in theater, concerts, life.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

I fully agree to Kristin. Who cares for (attempted) perfection when you can feel power and emotion and enthusiasm? If you have reached a certain level of skill, no one notices small mistakes. Music, like languages, are a means of communication, and it is the thing BEHIND the notes and words that count! Keep on going, Barbara. Put your emotions in whatever you do! Happy New Year!

4:18 AM  
Blogger e said...

I believe in surrendering to the enjoyment of something, whether you are perfect at it doesn't matter. You did that, and what a wonderful thing!

4:59 PM  

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