So I am having some anxiety at the moment writing this blog…due to having to leave for florida last thursday, because of unexpected death in the family, I am frantically trying to catch up! The book required for this reading is currently checked out by someone else, and there is a line of about 4 or 5 other students needing it, and by the time I would get it we will be in class. So I am going to write about anxiety and performance as I see it, and as it effects me.
Twisting stomach, and fluttering heart, accompanied by sweaty palms and twitching eyes…this is what happens in the green room before a performance. The interesting thing about anxiety is how the mental fear, what ever it may be, will effect you physically to the point of making or breaking you. Some of us center our anxiety into certain body areas, as of now I am not exactly sure where I put mine. I have been told multiple things by people who have seen me perform once or twenty times. Today in pedagogy we had to present on a technical issue that singers have and a physical. My physical was hand gestures, and that is something that I believe I am steps closer in conquering. At least that is what my teacher says, and what I see on video recordings. Anyways back to my presentation. In the presentation I had to demonstrate how to relieve anxiety in one’s hands during a performance. I showed a “aural” approach but honestly it was more “kinesthetic”, and I focused on tension in each finger and its relation to the pitch being sung at that moment, and making that physical+aural connection to try and reduce anxious energy in ones hands….An issue I found though in writing out the handouts for the class, was the issue that we don’t want our hands to be limp and “dead” looking…we want a “natural” look. So back to the subject of performance+anxiety, isn’t that “natural”? I just realized that I am on the same topic, pretty much the same, as I was last week. But it is something that I really want to focus on. Why is it that I now have tension in my body half of my body and am starting to develop jaw tension? (new finding from yesterdays voice midterm) And now Prof Acord is not saying anything about the “claw” that use to develop when I sing…it is almost as if that tension/anxiety that I use to place in my hands have now been “relocated” to another part of my body, and depending on the day, it seems to change location!
Now I am going to have a digression from my ramblings about my anxiety as a singer and briefly talk about what I know to be the origins of anxiety. Early man was driven by anxiety to accomplish tasks and survive. When the hunters and herders would be relocating locations the ones who weren’t over whelmed by their move and the physical/psychological strain, survived. While those who let the anxiety “over take” them, most likely did not get proper sleep, and then probably got sick, etc and died. Now contrasting to the cave men who died from anxiety, you had those who didn’t have anxiety to get anything accomplished, like build a defense wall, and they probably were eaten by bears. In the modern world the term “anxiety” has evolved and changed into a negative, instead of being driven by positive underlying desires (survival). Today we don’t have to worry about bears eating us, or finding new hunting forests…so this emotion that our amygdala and hippocampus has created, is out of whack.
Another thing that is interesting about evolution, is that the vocal folds ( now I am only talking about singers) where not created to be used for phonation! As humans we have two sets of vocal folds, the false and the vocalis. This phenomenon of talking/singing is something that the body was not engineered to do, and I feel like it is still a new phenomenon for our brains. What do I mean by this? Well, we are effected by vibrations and the vibrations from vocalizing effect our brain which stimulates the chemical areas of our brains…So could it be that with the evolution of talking the amygdala for example is secreting more chemicals then it did before? Wow, I am going on a crazy tangent! Going to stop now! Sometimes I can be on first base and end up in right field.
So, again about anxiety being natural. Its natural to be nervous and to have fear. That is part of the human experience. As performers it is our MISSION to control our anxiety and let it MOTIVATE us to have a BETTER PERFORMANCE. I need to take the anxiety I feel about performing Albert Herring in March, and use that ENERGY to do better NOW.