Yesterday when I was at the piano my guitar fell over and when I played it moments later it was out of tune. The fall knocked some keys. I played some tunes on guitar later and I was
1. trying to play,
2. talking about how to perform the song that I was trying to play
3. trying to retune at the same time. I got confused and completely lost my poise, my ear and ability to be in tune.
It mattered to me intensely that I was in tune. Of course it’s part of the humour of the situation that I am out of tune; to the performer’s eyes its funny, the more intense I am the funnier or it doesn’t matter, but to the listener’s ears it’s horrible. I can play to the gallery and make the performance ‘funny’, but I lose it musically. When in doubt make the audience laugh then I am reassured that they like me, and that is more important than being in tune.
Maybe that’s why that scene in Altman’s Nashville resonated so strongly for me. To recap:
A wannabe country singer, a young woman, comes to Nashville with dreams of making it big and ends up doing a freebie gig in an almost empty bar except for a couple of bored punters. Midsong, she realises that no-one is listening, so she stops playing, looks at the bored audience, and starts taking off her clothes- a striptease. ( that’s interesting- in my memory it was an empty bar. I watched the film again - it’s a big smoky bar full of drunk men- maybe it’s the appalling emptiness of the scene that has distorted my memory - the emptiness of the room becomes an empty bar in my memory. (3 hours later))
To me, it was the saddest, most humiliating scene. About wanting to perform askill to an audience with a dream of being applauded, recognized, appreciated, but that not being wanted so you go LCD to win the audience. its an excruciating scene. I felt for her. Moving from the musical performance where the ear is most important, to the eye, where spectacle is the most important - playing to the gallery - in her case bored men.
audiences are either ear or eye dominant
- if ear or music dominant then being out of tune is excruciating.
- if eye or performance dominant, then tuning is irrelevant. As long as the performer keeps the audience on side.