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Stage fright & music genre

On November 15th covering , , , , , ,

I notice that rock musicians don’t like to admit to stage fright, while classical musicians, singers and actors often will.

Maybe it’s because the latter group has to go through the ritual of auditioning. Rock musicians are more willing to use alcohol or other party substances before (and during) a performance, while this doesn’t work so well in the classical world. Somehow the intense rhythmic interplay of a Bartok quartet loses something after that seventh shot of Jagermeister.

Classical performers have both the pleasure and misfortune of playing to audiences who know the compositions very well, so there is no room for imprecision or faking. Mostly, there is a cultural tendency in rock to act tough or elaborately casual about performing. (Not that classical musicians aren’t tough in their own way.)

If a rock performance is sloppy it can be carried off as “authentic” or raw and exciting, etc. There’s always the chance to act as if they meant to do it that way.

When rockers are used to relying on alcohol or other substances to loosen up for performing, they can fail to even recognize that they are dealing with stage fright. Many rockers have been surprised, after going through rehab and attempting to maintain sobriety, to find out that they become nervous before going onstage — and they may realize they had never performed in a sober state before. Self-medicating for stage fright accounts for some of the terrible waste and carnage from substance use in the popular music world.

There is an elemental psychological risk every performer takes the stage. There is no way to eliminate this altogether. In my clinical work with performers I have been convinced, increasingly, that the real risk is the risk of feeling shame, which is a remarkably corrosive feeling for those who are prone to it.

More on this to come.

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