Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rhythm

It's snowing here! Oh gosh, but if it isn't gorgeous.

Okay, I promise this is going to be about writing ... eventually.

In music, I've studied the "greats" a lot, even the little greats, the ones who just make a career out of mostly performing. I've thought, what sets them apart? What makes them so successful?

It's a heady feeling, performing. You spend hours and hours working on your memory, praying the notes and the fingers don't fail you musically. When you go on stage, you hold the audience's attention in the palm of your hand.

Except, sometimes you've got to earn it. Sometimes you have to pull the audience out of their daily lives and into your music. And once you have that attention, it's a very precarious thing, especially in today's shorter attention-spanned society.

Up on stage, if you lose the flow or the rhythm for a nanosecond and you're listening to the audience, you can literally feel their attention slip from your control. If one note is placed late, if one phrase loses its momentum, BAM! They're gone.

But boy, when you can get through a whole piece--a whole recital, even--with the audience riding along, it's amazing.

I've noticed that some performers never get to the point where they even listen to the audience to feel that control. The good ones do. The ones who can make a whole career out of performing? They are absolutely impeccable with their rhythm. They NEVER get even a split second off of the flow.

In writing, I've noticed the same thing. The huge bestsellers have great characters, great stories, and great writing, but they also have impeccable rhythm.

I urge my best pianists to 'listen' to the audience and pay attention to their rhythm. Now I gotta do the same, in my own writing!

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