The other night, I had my second experience with "lucid dreaming". A lucid dream is a dream where you realize you're dreaming while you're still in the dream.
I dreamed that I woke up, looked at my clock radio and it was 1 o'clock. But I could tell by the daylight streaming through my window that it was afternoon and I had overslept. I bolted upright (still dreaming) and anxiously started pacing the floor, wondering how I could have overslept, why hadn't anyone called me and how I could possibly explain myelf to my missed appointments. Then suddenly (still dreaming), I realized that this was very strange and that for me to have slept for over 15 straight hours was highly improbable. Then I thought, "his must be a dream" at which point, I began to wake up. A few seconds later (mostly awake), I looked at the clock and it was 5:30 AM - time to get up and get ready to head for the gym. I was so happy!
However, this is supposedly only the first step in lucid dreaming - realizing in the dream, that you're dreaming. After that, you're supposed to be able to take control of the dream. For instance, I could have had Justin Timberlake knocking on my front door with a fresh pizza, or something. Or like in my recurring nightmare, where I'm on stage to perform a recital for which I hadn't practiced, I could take control, perform it brilliantly and receive a standing ovation!
That's one of the reasons I'm so intrigued by the lucid dream phenomenon. I think it could be used to reduce performance anxiety and build confidence, not just in music, but also in several other areas of life as well. However, some experts don't believe lucid dreams are even possible. They think people who claim to have them are simply misremembering their dream experience after waking. They claim that dreaming requires control by the subconscious and that consciousness would disrupt the dream (which would explain why I woke up). Currently, there is no technology that can prove that someone is having a lucid dream while they're having it. So, we can only take people's word for it or not.
Still, I'm hopeful and can hardly wait until my next experience where I'll try to stay asleep and take control. Then maybe I could have Emmanuel Pahud come over and play flute duets (and he'd bring a pizza, of course).
I recently had the disappointing misfortune of having to bow out of a performance due to illness. It was a unique opportunity to perform five solos at three church services on a single Sunday. And I was very excited about it, especially on my newly repaired flute. But with a fever of 102 and a sore throat, I just didn't feel up to the task.
But in hindsight, I regret the decision not to play. It's not like I haven't performed sick before. I had pretty much the same symptoms two years ago when I performed at my father's funeral. I had no intention of not performing for my dad, but just in case, my mom made it clear when she picked me up at the airport, that my illness "wasn't going to get me out of it". I only had to play one short piece at the funeral, as opposed to practically all day long like with this last gig. But the performance for my dad went quite well considering.
I cancelled my latest performance a day before the event giving the pianist enough advanced notice to put something together on her own. She said it went very well. But I can't help wondering if it would have been more professional of me to have made a greater effort to be there. How sick is too sick to perform?
I really don't know, but I guess it depends on several factors and it's different for everyone. I would have pretty much had to be dead myself to miss playing at my dad's funeral. And even then I still would have felt guilty. LOL.
Also, it seems that professionals would have more of an obligation than someone who was performing for free. And I suppose if the venue had no alternatives, you would have more of an obligation.
Another factor would be the instrument. A pianist or string player might be able to perform with the flu better than a singer or wind player. And a singer could probably perform better than a drummer with a broken arm, for example.
My sister used to get "sick" every Saturday night before she had to sing a solo in church when we were growing up. But she always sang anyway and sounded great. I was sick before my last recital as a college music professor because my cubital tunnel syndrome (which hadn't been diagnosed at the time) was particularly "active" that day causing enough performance anxiety to make me physically ill. I eventually muddled through, though.
So, I guess I really don't know. How do people decide when they're too sick to perform? If I have students who say they're too sick to play on the annual studio recital, do I just say "okay" or should I probe to make sure it's not just a common case of stage fright?
I really don't know. I'm asking?
So, I've enjoyed several weeks of flute playing free from the symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome now, but something else has been holding me back. All this time, I've been blaming embouchure problems, poor muscle memory and anxiety. And I'd almost accepted the "fact" that there was a certain amount of time one could spend away from practicing a skill before it was gone forever, and I had passed it.
But I've made a recent discovery - what I believe to be the final piece of the performance puzzle (though I'm extremely embarrassed to admit that I didn't come upon it sooner). My flute needs repair. Leaks in the tone holes have been cramping my style.
You'd think that someone who sets himself up as an expert would know better than to let such a simple solution get by him for so long. I didn't. Mainly because I knew I was was out of shape and figured that was causing my problems. Also, I had gotten braces during the time I wasn't practicing much, and thought maybe the new position of my teeth required me to find a different embouchure.
In addition, I blame...
1) arrogance ("a good flutist would sound good on anything"),
2) cheapness ("flute repair is too expensive") and
3) ignorance ("it's not really all that important as long as it plays").
But it really is that important.
A while back, I noticed a ripped pad, so I figured I'd better take it in. First, though, I got my $200 Mirage fixed up so I'd have something to play while they worked on my main flute. When I got the Mirage back, I noticed the difference! Low notes, speak. Attacks are easier. Pitch problems are no longer "impossible" to fix. Tone rocks. Response is better (which improves dexterity). All this on my "cheap" flute!!
And I suspect that the performance anxiety I was experiencing lately will be greatly reduced with the confidence I can have that the flute will respond pretty much as I expect it to. I can hardly wait to get my Miyazawa back.
Again, I'm seriously embarrassed for not realizing this sooner. I'm also a bit surprised that none of my teachers or consultants noticed. Going forward, it'sone of the first things I'll be checking with all of my students and clients. Nothing beats having a good instrument in good condition. Otherwise, you're spinning your wheels and wasting time. Or even worse, developing bad habits to compensate.
I suppose this is true of any profession. The quality of one's tools matter.
Today was a big day for me. I performed for the church service at Central Presbyterian Church in downtown St. Paul. It wasn’t a career changing performance or like the Queen of England was going to be there or anything. Today was special, because it’s the first day in several years that I would be performing in public without the involuntary finger movements that have been dogging me on and off since my junior year in college. I’ve been applying the therapies I’ve learned to combat cubital tunnel syndrome for the past three weeks. And they have made an incredible difference in just that short time.
It wasn’t my best performance ever, but it had its moments. And it's certainly a much more enjoyable experience when you're not worrying about fingers. But my hands were shaking and that was a brand new experience for me. I've been nervous while performing before, but nothing ever shook because of it. LOL. A few more performances under my belt should help out with that. But I think I will always be just a little more sympathetic to others when that happens to them from now on.
This blog is about music, health, challenges, determination and personal and professional growth. I hope it is useful.
Copyright 2017 Michael Davis. All rights reserved.