“Fire the Critic (And hire a Self-Coach)” is one piece of advice in Noa Kageyama’s excellent Bulletproof Musician course – which I recently took at Juilliard’s evening division. When you’re trying to get in the ‘zone’ and play freely, the last thing you need is a pesky little voice in your head tut tutting over errors and flashing ‘danger ahead’ signs as you hurtle towards those scary acrobatic passages. So how does a professional music critic silence their own inner critic when on the ‘other side’ of the curtain? With difficulty!
Since I’ve begun performing again, I’ve thought about how the challenges of live performance compare to the pressures of writing for a daily newspaper. When facing a blank screen with a deadline looming in an hour (ahem), a writer certainly needs a performance-like focus to produce a coherent article.
But the left-brain process of both musical practice and journalistic writing – a careful scrutiny of words and numbers and facts and judgment – is the exact opposite to the right brain function needed for optimal musical performance.
While writing on deadline, it is handy to have that inner critic saying: “Is that really the adjective you want to use?” and “Are you really sure that’s how you spell the conductor’s name?” and “I think you’ve inadvertently added two extra zeros to that number….”
But as Dr. Noa says, best to put down that critical pen while playing!