FOR THE CURIOUS CELLIST

Serious-Fun?

This article is part of the Psychology section.

Dustin Hoffmann talks about how, at the school where he studied acting, there were basically two types of students: serious ones and those who just wanted to have a good time. The best actors (performers) often came from the second category! If we take ourselves too seriously, if we give too much importance to what we are doing, then we can easily become tense and worried, with the corresponding tendency towards Overtrying and Stagefright. If we give too little importance to what we are doing we can become superficial and sloppy.

Many musicians – especially classical musicians – fall into the first category. This is a shame, because taking away some of that excess importance can free us up and make us more spontaneous, thus giving more pleasure, both to ourselves and to our listeners. Getting this balance right,  knowing how to be both a showman and poet, is important for a performer. Paganini gives us a good example of this. Not content to be just a superficial virtuoso, his music alternates showoff virtuoso firework passages with deeply lyrical, singing, poetic melodies.

To ensure this balance, it’s essential to have a life away from our music: a life full of other important things, activities and people, that take our mind off the music and give our musical batteries a rest. For “overtriers“, giving a little less importance to what we are doing is also an excellent protection against Musicians Injuries.

Of course, fun and seriousness are not mutually exclusive except in their most extreme forms. Perhaps, instead of the word “fun”, with its superficial connotations, we should use the word “pleasure”. Einstein had this to say about pleasure and work:

The most important motive for work – in school and in life – is pleasure: in the work, in its results, and in the knowledge of the value of the result to the community”.