Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Heartlands: Concert Premieres

The concert premieres of my major new musical work, Heartlands, on two consecutive days in Madison and Milwaukee, went well. There were a couple of performance glitches, but no train wrecks. Overall I am very pleased. I also had the two concerts video-recorded and audio-recorded, and what I have reviewed so far seems quite good.

The truth is, though, it's still too soon. I need a few more days. The whole experience leading up to the concerts was stressful and full of anxiety—wanting as perfect a performance as possible, etc.—and the weekend itself was so overwhelming and personally overstimulating for me, not in a bad way, that I put my mind on "record" rather than on "assess" and frankly am still in that mode.

I actually dislike immediate post-mortems of concert performances. Back in the years when I performed in other musical groups, there were times when there was a party right after the concert, and if a videotape had been made, it was put on the TV and everyone gathered around and watched themselves in the concert they had just finished a few hours ago. I hated that. I hated that. I would usually off in another room, mostly by myself, rather than joiing in the self-love-fest of post-concert concert watching.

For one thing, no one is objective about their performance so close to the actual event. Watching yourself on tape later is a good thing, from time to time—but it needs to days or even weeks later, when the thrill and excitement and adrenaline have faded somewhat. No one can be objective right away. That takes time. It takes time to know if the poem you wrote is good, or crap. It takes time for emotional stirrings to settle down.

It's a really, really bad idea to watch your own concert in full, right after you did it. it can skew your perceptions to the extreme, both positive and negative. It can very much mess up your ability to perform naturally, by making you far too self-conscious to relax. It can make your performances become very mannered and pretentious. It takes a rare person, with a rare sense of self-possession and self-knowledge to not be affected in any way by looking at themselves in such a mirror. Very few have the self-confidence to be unaffected enough by a concert review to remain unselfconscious.

So I avoid such practices. I do concert reviews much later on, when all the dust has settled. Then I can listen and watch and be far more balanced in my assessments.

What I have done in the past evening is take the concert footage that was made for me of both performances, are streamed it into the computer. I have only watched enough of the video to do the editing required to trim it down to manageable size to fit onto a DVD. I have only listened to enough excerpts to make sure the audio was clear, clean, and of good quality. (Which it is.) I edited the raw footage down, made the titles, and set the file to render. Then I walked away from the computer and let it churn. Since this is a long piece of music, and I have two concerts to edit down to DVD length—which I am doing for the sake of documentation, not for commercial release; no more than that at this point, so don't ask me when it will be available, I don't know—I did the editing work, and set the files to render. When they're done rendering, I'll build the DVDs. That will take a few more days. Big concert files can take all day and night to render.

People keep asking me, How did the concerts go?! Where they a big success?! People genuinely want to know, because they really do care, and support my success as a composer and writer.

I feel like a heel for saying so, but the truth is: How the hell should I know? For one thing, I'm far too close to the events themselves to be objective yet. For another thing, I was far too crazy with stress going in to the concerts to do anything more than get through them, absorb what happened, and set it aside for later appreciation and thoughtfulness. Lots of good things were said to me, and about me. I appreciate them all—and at the same time, they don't at the moment feel like they have anything to do with me. I am too close to things to really know what's real and what's fantasy. I do myself no service by collapsing into some belief in my own genius, or allowing my ego to be inflated by praise to the point where I lose my balance and my objectivity both.

So I don't really know how the concerts went. I am not able to answer that as yet. I hope that they were a big success, and I feel that they probably were. As with all things, time will tell. Meanwhile, I have lots of work to do on the next phase of the process, as we prepare to record the music in the studio, and then take it to the GALA conference in Denver a few weeks later.

Many friends and family all said the concerts went extremely well, and so did some total strangers. I got a lot of very positive commentary afterwards. Many people said they really loved the work. And while we were performing, there were some moments when we could see audience members in tears. They were obviously moved by the performance, which pleases me greatly.

The thing you have to remember is: everyone in this audience wanted us to succeed. They support us, they support me, and that's wonderful! Nonetheless, it will probably be some time before I can be genuinely objective about this experience. Am I grateful? Beyond what words can say. Am I hoping to do more? Yes indeed.

Meanwhile, all I can say is that I'm incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to write this large choral work, and to have been commissioned to do so. I'm incredibly grateful to all involved who made it happen; to all who attended; especially for family and friends who drove or flew thousands of miles just to be here for the concert premieres; and to all who sent their well-wishes even though they could not attend. This has been a major positive force in my life, these past months. And this is only the beginning. There will be other performances of Heartlands to come. and other new commissions to compose and write. I look forward to all of that, and I will be eternally grateful to all concerned for every aspect of this experience that has carried through my life for many months now. It's just the beginning. I have a long list of things to do, next, now that this concert series is complete, and the next phase begins.

Thank you all. Someday I'll talk more about how I felt about the concerts, before, during, and after. But not for at least a few more days.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Well I'm glad it went well and hope you post an audio or a video clip so we who live so far away can get a better idea.

4:26 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Well, to really get an idea I'd have to post more of it than I want to. It's nineteen movements,carter all, and they're all quite different in style and range and musical materials. I will post something when I can, but it will never be more than a taste. The entire work will eventually be available on CD and later via iTunes or something of that ilk. It'll certainly be announced here when it happens.

10:49 AM  

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