When I read Terry Teachout’s quote posting today, I just had to steal it from him (see below). Well, I suppose I’m not really stealing it since it’s still at the About Last Night site as well, yes?

Anyway, I love the quote. Mostly because it reminds me of what not to do when I play. Granted, playing an instrument isn’t the same as writing a book. It’s not the same as composing a piece, either; it isn’t quite as “inventive” I suppose (which maybe is why I will remain a poet wannabe; I’d love for some creation to be completely of my own making. Is that selfish of me? Or asking too much? Might be.). I’m not saying what I do isn’t inventive at all—I do put my own voice into what I’m playing … but the notes ares someone else’s. I “just” try to bring them to life and make good music.

But when I’m performing I prefer not to perform for critics. I don’t need that interference. Who do I perform “for” then? I dunno. I like to sound spiritual and say I perform for God and sometimes that truly is so, as much as I’m humanly possible, that is. But lots of the time that doesn’t happen. (Stupid ego. Down, ego, down!) My particular faith calls for me to do all to the Glory of God. Most of the time I’m not quite there, but I try. Honest and true. I’ve found that when I start thinking too much about the critics or even a specific person in the audience things can go wacky. I often get too careful, sometimes making things too precious. I’m not sure you will know what I mean by that, but oh well. If my music sounds too planned, too plotted out, it can lose the music of it all. To my ears anyway. And I can make really stupid mistakes because I lose the right focus and the brain goes on freeze.

And yet I do have to plan things out. I practice lines to get the “just so”. I work on making sure I get no glitches between notes (those glitches come easily to oboe … or at least to me!). I work on clean attacks, and tapering phrases. I try to play smoothly. And yet a smoothness that is too controlled loses something. So it’s some sort of balance that needs to be accomplished.

Aargh. I’m not sure this makes sense to anyone else, or that I’m clear in what I’m trying to say. But there you go. I’m just rambling … it’s that kind of day.


  1. This critic agrees: don’t perform for the critics.  You do what you do, and the audience will respond as they respond.  That’s always best.

    Don’t think of critics as a separate entity from the audience,
    though.  (Not that you were.)  A critic is just an articulate
    listener with a forum.  I wouldn’t have become a critic if I
    weren’t already having review-like reactions in my head spontaneously.

  2. Patricia Mitchell

    Yep … I don’t actually think of the critics as separate. I think some of the critics think that way, though!

    The most difficult thing to deal with is live broadcasts; those are tremendously difficult to forget about!