Guest Post written by Concert Pianist Molly Knight FordeI use playing the piano as one of my daily meditation practices because it requires total presence of body, feelings and mind. When everything is lined up, playing the piano becomes a profound event where deeper emotion moves me and I am part of something greater than myself.
The execution of the notes can take months to bring up to tempo and perfect. I must zero in on 4 or 5 difficult measures of music that don’t seem to be working at speed and analyse what the physical problem may be. This professional level of playing requires the utmost efficiency of movement and tremendous relaxation. Too much tension will affect the sound, the flow and the tempo.
I must have a zen like presence to deeply notice the physical status of my body right down to the tips of my fingers and how they make contact with the keys. Playing the piano requires this kind of physical focus.
If I can be present with each movement while engaging a listening feedback loop, I have a seemingly perfect system, but listening after the fact is too late.
I need to be so present that my creative force goes ahead of my fingers and tells them exactly how I want to produce a sound to create any effect. My refined technique becomes the perfect vehicle for spontaneity and direct expression from the heart.
I can only do this if I am in the present moment.
No performance, whether it is in my studio or before thousands of people is ever the same. I make small adjustments along the way depending on the piano, the hall, the audience and my state of Being.
A certain alchemy creates each musical event in live performance. I am part of a greater whole made up of interaction between the energy of the audience, the composer who lives through the piece of music, the music itself and me, the interpreter of that music.
Because I play things that are already written, I have a goal to deliver that composer’s intent but through my heart and soul. I feel affinity with a certain time period in history, the Being Presence of the composer which supersedes time and space as well as my Being Presence which is brought forth together with theirs.
If everything is just right, I soar from a place beyond any one aspect. I experience expansion when I am connected to the work of art, my heart and my audience.
This is nothing less than sacred and brings about Presence within me.
In explaining all this zen of execution and the active pulse of performance, both integral components in a professional musician’s life, there is one thing I have left out that should be pointed out.
If any of this is to occur, I have to get out of the way.
That part of me that critically judges myself or sizes up how good or bad I am in light of what others might think has got to be relegated to a miniscule corner of my awareness if not obliterated completely. It’s noise is dimmed by my ability to remain within my divine higher self. This ability has come from years of wrestling with these two parts, recognizing each for what they are and remaining present with both in order to learn more.
My identification with the idea that I am not good enough manifests in nerves, fear and hesitation. It is the barrier to pure and spontaneous Being expression, the expression that touches my heart and the hearts of others.
To become free of this barrier, I have immersed myself in staying present with a struggle which resembles the battle of the Black and White Magicians wielding their extraordinary powers over one another. Each success on one side incites the other to a new, more insidious means to vanquish the foe.
Sometimes the Black magician prevails on stage and to my audience it seems like a good performance, but to me it was a battle to unlock the prison door.
Each time it takes me down, even if it lasts for a small part of a performance, I get closer to the purity of the moment. In a microsecond, the white magician must shake it off and continue its pursuit of excellence… not perfection.
I am offered the chance to remember Myself and engage my Essence through the music.
I realize that if I am to remain in the present with each touch, within each phrase, I must vigilantly hold my attention and remain open to being affected by the music itself. I access both the physical and nonphysical realms. My Soul develops in profound ways because of my intention to be with what is happening.
It wouldn’t even matter if anyone else heard it at that point because this presence with the music moves a deeper more vulnerable part of me; something one hopes can come across in a performance.
More importantly, this vulnerability is revealed to me and I am transformed.