Full Or Empty: Life Is A Room That You Own
When the room is full, play like it’s a private concert for your favorite person. When the room is empty, play as though the world is hanging on your every note.
Sounds completely bonkers, but it works some powerful magic, both for piano entertaining and….life itself! You’ll be amazed at what happens. The reason this works is because I believe that everybody who is listening to you is listening as though you are playing just for them (even if you’re not!). If the room is packed and you’re overwhelmed by it, even the slightest bit affected by it, then the personal side of your playing won’t come through. And if you’re too subdued or drained when playing to a silent, near-empty room, the message coming from your instrument is woeful and “lonely”. I’m not suggesting that you compensate for an empty room it by playing loud, or being brassy, I’m talking about the approach. Use the two-sided brain game: One side knows that the room is empty( or full). The other side pretends that the opposite is going on.
For example, say the room is absolutely bustling, people spilling out over the tables, general mayhem, pierced with laughter and noise, clinking of glasses and all of the serving tray percussion your brain can handle. Yet you are going to “pretend” that your music is falling on the most important ears of anyone you know, effortlessly, in a respectful setting. The effect will be to give a personalized performance to the whole room, and everyone inside will feel a little more connected. Not everyone will hear, and less will even be actually listening. But that’s not your concern. Your concern is to reflect the ultimate top in the room and to deliver. This way, you’ll never be “owned” by a loud room, nor appear that you’re fighting to be heard over the crowd. There’s no fight—you’ve already won by just being there. And the listeners, whoever they are, will feel like they are the ones you care about. Talk about the truth in performing. In the opposite scenario, play to an empty room as though you are being broadcast live in the middle of the Super Bowl, and whoever the scant lucky few that are in the room will feel like they are an important part of the experience. They will hardly be aware of the emptiness—because you, the performer, don’t even notice it. And when they do notice, they will feel privileged and rightly so. In this case, one side of the brain is aware that there are only a couple people in sight, but the other side is regarding the room as being full and “the most happening place to be”. Guess what?? It is now.
How about an example: In the loud-room scenario, I was applying the formula, and caring deeply about a particular couple far across the room looking constantly at me, his hand resting on her lap. During my set, in this crazy noisy brawl of a crowd, a seasoned-looking rock-and-roll guy dashed over from out of the throng, and exclaimed, “Man, I can’t believe what you’re dealing with tonight, don’t people realize what you’re doing?? They’re so rude. I’m digging the music!”. He was the guitarist for the band Whitesnake. Years before that, on a nearly empty night, I was pretending that every note was being heard by a huge speechless crowd with gorgeous concert sound. I was having a ball. Nobody was in sight. Yet the room was not exactly empty, for a waiter came up and said “Warren Beatty is behind the column back there and he said ‘That pianist is playing like it’s crowded as hell in here and he's giving a special show!'" I rest my case. So go kill it. But do so the right way. For yourself, for those you see before you, and all those that you don’t.