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Music and Time Travel


It is rare to find an individual who would not like to travel through time. To the future to see distant places, personalized flight, advanced AI, a Trump-free America. Or the past, to visit Shakespeare, Galileo, Newton, Mozart, Paganini. Or maybe more proximally, see Heifetz live in concert at carnegie hall?

But anyone who has performed is probably aware of the relativistic time travel that seems part and parcel of the performance experience.

We think ahead, we ponder something just finished, we try to maintain focused in the present. We dial in and time expands, we let go and groups of notes become one for the conscious mind as the fingers and subconscious takes care of phenomenal number of calculations necessary to play both fast and accurately.

Which leads us to the point of this post.

The wobble. The error. That moment when our conscious minds jump or become involved with a passage when previously they weren't. When we go from planning for some future moment to noticing the here and now and then overgrip and then fumble.

Much has been written about remaining in the present when playing. And while this is valuable both as a practice and performance technique, I think the mind often needs to travel back and forth. You hear that another player is slowing down and adjust - a reaction to the past; you think of the climax to a phrase but realize that you want to burish it a bit more this time - a move into the future. In these cases, it is How you travel and return that will become important.

I submit that it is these transitions, these moving in and out of the wormholes of time travel is where the turbulence resides and oftentimes the introduction of error into performance.

Next time you play (not practice) through a work or section, take time to be aware of where your mind goes and when you choose to return to the present. Then when you do, don't overstear the car. Try to just be aware of your body and subsconsious mind playing without judgement. You might find you can return to the present without the wobble and appreciate the amazing joy of the here and now.