The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

Event and Anxiety event anxiety anxiety

(for Stephen Dydo)

Before every sound/music performance, I go through intense
anxiety. There's no way around it. I never know whether the
electronics will function correctly, and because every time I
play it's different and I'm pushing myself into zones of
possible failure, I experience intense discomfort. I have
nothing to fall back on. This occurs with every piece I make or
play in, every live or recorded performance. I believe if I
don't feel anxiety, something is wrong (and I'm then anxious
about that!). I worry above all about not being able to create
something new, having to return to repetitive death. This has
always been the case. So there is this event coming up, which
everyone should attend - and then the electronics might collapse
(there are so many ways to fail!), I might not be able to play
in tune, a string might break, my fingers might cramp up, a nail
might break, a bow might crack or loosen, there might be too
much feedback or too little volume, my playing might be horrible
(all too often the case), the instrument might be out of tune
(and I can't tune it up properly in public) (a peg might have
slipped out of position) (a crack might open up) (the microphone
might fail); the instrument might slip position; I might not be
able to switch instruments quickly enough; I might find myself
repeating riffs with hackneyed and trite scales; I might run
overtime; I might run too much undertime; I might cut clumsily
into Azure's singing; I might be too loud; I might not be loud
enough; I might forget a figure I want to vary; I might begin
feeling too depressed to continue; I might feel like an utter
failure while playing; I worry that feeling like an utter
failure will show; I might not be able to please the audience; I
may be boring the audience; they may have heard all this before;
they might not understand what I'm trying to do; I'm doing too
much thinking to continue; I've lost my place on the finger-
board; I feel I'm trapped into commonplaces; I feel I'm playing
too many highnotes; I feel my lownotes aren't clear enough; I
find my glissandos miss their mark; I feel I can't cover up my
mistakes; I feel I'm making too many mistakes; I feel I'm
letting the audience down; I feel I'm letting Azure down; I feel
I'm letting myself down because the piece is a catastrophe; I
think I'm sweating too much; I'm concerned I'm insulting the
instrument; I'm concerned my playing isn't free enough; I think
my playing is out-of-date; I think free musicians are laughing
at me; I think ethnomusicologists in the audience will know I'm
a fraud; that I don't know how to play the instrument I'm using;
that I'm insulting the maker of the instrument; that I'm
insulting everyone; I worry that I'm a fraud; I think that
anyone who's a trained musician will realize what a failure I
am; I worry about being found out; I worry that I can't sing a
note (true) in tune at all (still true) and can't even match
tones with my voice (still true); I worry I can't hear harmony
well; I'm afraid that I have difficulty even playing the
simplest songs of others; I'm scared that I can't carry a tune
with my voice; I worry that people will know I'm just making
myself up; I worry that I'm a fool and not even a perfect one; I
worry that the fact I'm a fraud will show; I'm worried that
people will walk out; I'm scared I won't be able to walk out;
I'm worried I'm left behind; I'm scared I'm not avant-garde
enough; I'm worried I'm not avant-garde at all; I'm scared I'm
old-hat; I'm scared my tinnitus is ruining any musical ability I
might have had; I'm worried I'm too anxious; I'm worried I'm not
anxious enough.

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