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The phrase “artistic temperament” is used so often, I wonder whether we know what it means.

In this post, I want to explore various assumptions I’ve been thinking about all week.  My interpretation of the phrase as it relates to myself is somewhat different, I suspect.

When you hear someone say “artistic temperament,” do you picture a diva having a tantrum?  Treating everyone like scum?  Looking at the ceiling for inspiration during a performance?

There are plenty of people who act in annoying ways, and they’re not all artists.  There are also plenty of people who have the diva thing down, but have no talent.

Sometimes unreasonable behavior is an outward manifestation of insecurity, nerves, or fear.  (If I push you away, then you can’t get close enough not to like me.)

Recently I performed in the city concert series in Burlington, Iowa, where I grew up.  My best friend since 7th grade flew in from California!  When I asked her if I had been annoying on the day of the concert, she said, “a little.”  What I remember is wanting to have lunch at Perkins rather than at a new vegetarian place in town.  (OK, I insisted.)  I felt that I needed to do something reliable, to know what I was ordering.  (Besides, I would make a lousy vegetarian.)  My concert felt like adventure enough for that day.

I don’t think I’m a diva, at least not most of the time.  Knowing that I can be impatient before a concert, I make a point of greeting the stage manager in advance, letting her/him know that my nerves may come out in that way, so please don’t take it personally.  Funny thing is, I know I do it, but I honestly can’t tell when it’s happening.

Being a diva and having an artistic temperament are quite different in my view.

An artistic temperament includes:

  • sensitivity
  • the ability to dream/imagine/think outside the box/solve musical puzzles
  • the drive to perform/compose/direct/write
  • seeing one’s art as the first priority, the only priority

Artists tend to see their art as a major part of themselves.  So when their art is criticized, they feel that their personalities are being criticized, that the critic doesn’t like them.

We need to be diplomatic in rehearsals for this reason.  On occasion, we find ourselves commited to a performance with people whose playing we dislike.  It is crucial to find a way to get along, at least for that one concert.

My art is my priority. I find myself skipping a movie, for instance, if I feel the need to practice more for an upcoming performance.

When I play, all other concerns go away.  Yesterday, even though I had a bad cold, my awareness of the sore throat, congestion, and altered hearing disappeared completely during a rehearsal.

Someone asked me whether I had experienced a defining moment telling me that I wanted to be a pianist.  No ~ however, this is what I’ve always done.

The most convincing proof to me that I have an artistic temperament is simply this:  I can’t live with out my art.

How about you?  Please share your thoughts!

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