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Opus 1: Episode 4 – “Let It Go: Centering in Performance”

Episode 4 of The Counterpoint Club explores the relationship between audiences and performers throughout the last several centuries of Western classical music history. We look at how that dynamic has changed, and how, as performers, we can adapt our energy to play at our absolute best on stage.

In the history lesson, Willie looks at how recording technology has significantly changed live performance. Take a listen here to the very first recording of a human voice:

The machine that recorded these sounds was a phonautograph, the first machine that could record sound. It was a very simple device and could not play back the sounds it recorded. It wasn’t until 2008 that contemporary software engineers used scans of the original recording to create this digital version that we can listen to today.

The phonograph, invented by Thomas Edison, was the first mass-produced machine that could easily both record sounds and play them back. This video gives a great demonstration of how one such machine from 1903 worked:

The technique lesson in this episode guides listeners through the process of Centering. Centering is a term first coined by sport psychologist Dr. Robert Nideffer in the 1970s, and adapted for performing artists by Olympic sport psychologist (expanded into music performance psychologist) Dr. Don Greene. This important work was extended by music performance psychologist Dr. Noa Kageyama to help musicians establish a pre-performance routine.

The Centering exercise provided in the worksheet for this episode is modified by Dr. Sarah Pizzichemi from the version of Centering by Dr. Noa Kageyama. Centering is a fantastic way to channel the energy that builds up before performing in a productive way by directing your focus, even in heightened situations.

The 7 Steps of Centering:

TCC Worksheet

  1. Pick your focal point
  2. Form your clear intention
  3. Breathe mindfully
  4. Scan and release excess tension
  5. Find your center
  6. Repeat your process cue
  7. Direct your energy

Download the worksheet for full descriptions of the steps.

If you have never engaged with Centering before, be patient and consistent in practicing this technique. For more tips on performance psychology, visit Bulletproof Musician, where Dr. Noa Kageyama provides invaluable resources in this field

“You can’t stop the waves,
but you can learn to surf.”

— Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn,
scientist, writer, and
meditation teacher

Hopefully the lessons we covered in this lesson can help you learn to “surf” the energy buildup before performances.

We were so glad to have violinist Hyeyung Yoon as our special guest in Episode 4. When the Skyros Quartet was in graduate school, we were mentored by the Chiara String Quartet, where Hyeyung played violin for 18 years. We had a great conversation with her about performance energy, and about the Korean performance tradition of madang.

Hyeyung Sol Yoon
Hyeyung Sol Yoon

Hyeyung Sol Yoon

Hyeyung Sol Yoon has been seeking to connect deeply with audiences since starting her career as a violinist in the Chiara String Quartet in 2000. Out of this desire, she launched “Chamber Music in Any Chamber,” a project that brought her ensemble to over 50 clubs and bars across the country, and performed in settings outside of concert halls that were more comfortable for many to experience music. The quartet’s project of memorizing its concert repertoire, including the performances of the Complete String Quartets of Bela Bartok at the Ravinia Festival in 2016, also came out of the same desire. Without stands in the way, the audience could sense the music more vibrantly. Her career with the Chiara, which celebrated its last season in spring 2018, has brought her to venues around the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Library of Congress, Seoul Arts Center, and Carnegie Hall. Discography includes recordings of Jefferson Friedman’s String Quartets, which was nominated for Grammy Award in 2011 and Bartók by Heart, the Complete String Quartets of Béla Bartók, released in 2016. Hyeyung is the co-founder of Open Space Music, an online live series that she and her husband, cellist Gregory Beaver, launched in response to the pandemic in May 2020. For the price of a movie ticket, it provides music and connection through live video calls, and performers are paid through sale proceeds. She traveled to Korea in Spring 2019 to research folk performance practices called madang and is the founder of Asian Musical Voices of America, a platform created by and for Asian classical musicians creating and working in the United States. She was the Blodgett Artist-in-Residence at Harvard University (2008-2014) and a Hixson-Lied Artist-in-Residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2005-2018). She is a graduate of the Juilliard School (B.M. and Artist Diploma in String Quartet Studies).

Here is Hyeyung performing in the Chiara Quartet, the finale of Bartok’s fifth string quartet, completely from memory!

We also had a great discussion with Hyeyung about two of the projects she is currently working on. Open Space Music is a streaming concert series that Hyeyung launched with her husband, cellist Gregory Beaver during quarantine. You can find information about upcoming performances and buy tickets at Open Space Music. Student tickets are free, and the performances are fantastic! Hyeyung is also involved with Asian Musical Voices of America, a platform and community for Asian musicians in the US to speak about their experiences.

You can listen to our full interview with Hyeyung Sol Yoon online.

Do you have a question for the Skyros Quartet? Fill out our online form or send us an email with your question attached as a voice recording! We’d love to hear your questions about our ensemble, chamber music, or being in a string quartet! We’ll try to answer as many questions as we can during the Q and A at the end of each podcast episode.

Stay tuned for Episode 5: May the Paycheck Be With You, which will feature special guest, violinist Augustin Hadelich.

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  1. Gennie Winkler
    Gennie Winkler August 15, 2020

    I had an amazing experience at the Museum of Musical Instruments in Phoenix. The museum celebrates global music and features video clips of performing musicians from 300 cultures. I was overwhelmed by the commitment and intensity of every performance. Brass bands, string quartets, log drumming…all focused and profound.

    And they have a string winding machine!

    • cmm
      cmm August 18, 2020

      Hi Gennie! I’ve heard such great things about that museum! I was just graduating from ASU in Phoenix the same month they opened and I never had the chance to go before I moved away. There are so many incredible ways to make music, so different from our Western classical traditions! -Willie

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