performative

The GRE literature felt a bit better than I thought (knock on wood) though feeling that I didn’t have enough time to fully check my answers was unpleasant. We’ll see when we get the scores back. The student performance went ok too, with the exception of a jarring note near the end. I feel as those are the worst times to make mistakes… you’re nearing the end, and then you play this absolutely obviously wrong note, and it’s more obvious because it’s near the end. I think I didn’t have that much control over the sound either…

I was playing keyboard for my church’s “Praise Night”, otherwise known as Ignite. It was great playing with such a wonderful group of talented people. I don’t think I had never been to a praise night before. That probably sounds weird considering my religious background. In any case, I like how these nights are so big on music. I think some people (the ones I know anyway) are inherently suspicious of a polished musical experience. Not that our group was completely polished — it’s hard to get to that point and I never feel totally satisfied with the musical side of things while being satisfied with others — but because it seems a little too performative of them, that we are focusing too much on the music and less on the worshipful side of things. I don’t think that’s true, and I don’t think that a polished musical performance and a genuine worshipful experience are mutually exclusive things. Is it our own mistrust of that which seems “too put together”? Is it because we believe that a profound experience should be something that threatens to fall apart at the seams? I don’t think that we should mistaken one for the other, or believe that just because things seem extremely put together that one or the other is missing. Spontaneity and wrong notes is not an indication of a worshipful heart in the same way that it’s not particularly indicative of a lack of a worshipful heart, either. A polished musical performance can just be a purely aural event (whatever that means), or it could be at the heart of the worship experience, as well.

I have felt power with a musical experience at its most raw as well as its most polished and effortless.

In any case, I’d like to challenge the idea that a focus on performance shouldn’t leave out anything else, and doesn’t have to leave out anything else, and in fact may be part and parcel of what it means to be a worshipful musician.

I’d also like to challenge the idea that a performance in a worship service is synonymous with “shallow.” I think the word “performance” in a service has become synonymous, somehow, with the idea of manufactured, mechanical experience: or a purely musical event. As someone who has been involved in performance from a classical music standpoint, and as someone who has spent a lot of time over the past few months reading stuff about absolute music and transcendence, I believe that performance as performance can be a truly genuine experience, and that it can point toward the transcendent. I don’t think performance is something that purely involves the performer, as some people take it to mean. I think it is a variety of things — audience, God, music, performer, interaction, connection, community.

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