On the Stage - Scene 2: The Inner Game of Music

Music is the space between the notes (Claude Debussy)

The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green is derived from the original book by the instructor and tennis player – W. Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis. You might be wondering what does tennis has to do with music. The inner game of tennis book has been translated for many different working and sports areas, from tennis, Golf, to business and music. Without entering precisely on the psychology universe, the author presents a very simplified and didactic view about what happens in a performers head, in case of the original book, a tennis player, when he is performing, training or passing thru an evaluation process such as a competition, an exam, etc. By analyzing his own experiences and performance issues, related to efficiency, technical conscience, relaxation, self-control, and others, he got to the conclusion that we can admit that we have within us two “selfs”: the Self 1 and the Self 2.
He states that when we are playing a game or performing in stage, or anything like that, that there are actually two games taking place: the one that´s happening outside with it´s own challenges and rules, against a partner, a team, or a difficult music score, etc; and the game, or sometimes fight, that happens between Self 1 and Self 2, as Barry says, “in the arena of our minds”.

Despite being the original book written for tennis players, with practical examples and issues from this universe, it quickly became known and read by many other professionals, once the authors approach deals with questions and situations that people can directly identify and profit from what he proposes as resolutions also for their own working areas. For this reason, it was adapted to other fields with the inclusion of their respective specificities.

What makes this book an important tool for us performers, is that it directs the view of the reader to the game that´s happening inside us, what have direct correlation to what come out as result from our external performance. Sometimes we´re too devoted on solving technical, stylish, precise attacks, breathing problems, all that are related to our external activity efficiency, and we forget to work on the basics of our self-control, self-conscience, and to understand how our minds work and behaves when we´re are put to execute an specific task.    

 Barry Green presents an exact formula to describe Performance. He states that:

  P= p – i

P refers to the resulted Performance; p stands for potential, which is our potential, our capability and skills to execute one specific activity; and i the interference, what come as noise, or blocking things that can come and compromise our potential. When our Performance approaches the equal value of our potential, then we have a positive performance, that means, successfully achieved. But, when the interference is too high, our performance equation becomes negative, leading to a negative or inefficient performance outcome.

The goal of this book then, it´s try to help you diminish the value of the item “i” of this equation, that means, to control the amount of interference we let appear in our minds when we´re put into performance mode.

Barry Green´s Inner Game version brings an extra advantage which is the proposal of very short exercises along what is being discussed, and that contributes to our understanding process once we, as music performers, associate better things when we can execute them, isn´t it?!  

According to the author Self 1 would be,
“our interference . It contains our concepts about how things should be, our judgments and associations. It is particularly fond of the words ´should` and ´shouldn`t`, and often  sees things in terms of what “could have been”. ” (BARRY, 1986, pg. 28)
and Self 2 would be,
“the vast reservoir of potential within each one of us. It contains our natural talents and abilities, and is a virtually unlimited resource that we can tap and develop. Left to its own devices, it performs with gracefulness and ease. (…) it is an unthinking state, one in which we are relaxed yet aware, and are letting our true ability and musicality express itself, without trying to control and manipulate” (BARRY, 1986, pg. 28,33)

That means, Self 1 is the voice in our heads, as a mix of all that we have heard from family, teachers, friends, and so on, that appears on the most unnecessary moments, trying to distract and makes us skeptical about our abilities; the Self 2 is the one responsible for our fluidity, our concentrated expressiveness, and the one that is “smashed” by the Self 1 criticism, bad advises and control. Barry illustrates S1 as being the PACMAN ghost following us with multiple colors and versions, trying to eat us, as he didactically associates (1986,pg. 35), “if we pay attention to S1 while we are playing or listening to music, the monsters of self-doubt and mental interference are liable to get us.”

It seems indeed a very simplistic concept to associate with, in terms of the real intricate complexity that takes place on the relation and dialogue between body and mind processes involved on any performance type. There are many other reference books written by psychologists, neurologists and others specialists with precise information about brain physiology and overall brain functioning processing related to music perception, creation and interpretation. What Timothy Gallwey, the original author proposed, and then what was adapted by Barry Green, was rather a censorial understanding of our relation with our inner-selves, on the perspective of how we feel, perceive and are affected by our mind while we´re studying, performing or even thinking about practice.

As mentioned before, these are bibliographies not only for tennis players or musicians, but for anyone who is in search of improving his or her performance as a global, and you may chose to read one or both of them, as well as the other versions. It´s just a very light and practical way of learning how to deal with the little monster inside us, give it a try.

Don´t let yourself  be trapped!

Brazilian soprano Nivea Freitas, with academic background in physics, left the area of science and completed her bachelor of classical singing in 2013 at the UFMG music school - Brazil, oriented by prof. Luciana Monteiro. By mid 2015 concluded a dissertation on musical performance research, also at the UFMG, which was partially developed in Paris in her exchange studies for a year at the theater department of the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. During this period, she profited also to improve her performance practice at the École Normale de Musique de Paris, oriented by the french soprano Caroline Dumas, and Yves Sotin (Conservatoire Nationale Superieur de Musique de Paris).

Since October 2015 she is doing a professional master's degree in Germany at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg oriented by the tenor Mark Tucker.

She is a performer with a broad classical musical interest that goes from opera to contemporary music repertoire, concert and artsong, and presents herself actively in concerts and recitals in Brasil and Europe.

Author: Nivea Freitas
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