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#580916 - 12/14/07 05:42 PM Ceiling staring
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19472
Loc: New York City
I was watching several youtube videos of Nicolai Lugansky. I thought he was an absolutely incredible pianist but felt he had an annoying habit that a fairly high % of performers share with him. He often raises his head and looks at the ceiling.

I know some will feel that the only thing that matters is what comes out of the piano as the pianist plays it, but for me the visual aspect is a part of a live performance.

I've seen Victor Rosenbaum(a teacher I highly respect) in master classes humorously point out to students what he feels is the negative aspect of ceiling staring by asking if there was something unusual on the ceiling that caught their attention.

So... what's your opinion of this staring at the ceiling?

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#580917 - 12/14/07 07:13 PM Re: Ceiling staring
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
actually i don't mind if a pianist does that once a while, since it's far better than making strange faces (Uchida comes to mind), sort of like pretending to be hugely emotionally involved.

strangely, now that you mentioned it, i remember that i was consciously aware of myself doing it at lesson the other day, playing 2 vs. 3 and trying to just listen to myself...

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#580918 - 12/14/07 08:10 PM Re: Ceiling staring
antony Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/12/07
Posts: 398
Loc: Portland, OR
Funny you should mention Mr. Rosenbaum. I also saw him holding a master class. The pianist was playing and staring up and off into the distance. I found it to be a little annoying, it seemed like an affectation. After he played, the first remark Mr. Rosenbaum had was:
"When you play you should not look up at the ceiling. We as an audience want to have our experience of the music, not see you having your experience of the music." It was quite funny but very succinct and accurate. He was not mean or snide, but made his remark in a gentle yet effective way. I saw a few of his classes and he was always very soft spoken, but really interested in the true spirit of the music.

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#580919 - 12/14/07 09:48 PM Re: Ceiling staring
RachOn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/11/07
Posts: 88
Loc: W. Pa.
"we...want to have our experience of the music, not see you having your experience of the music."

That's going to stick with me.

So then, are visual expressions of "getting lost in the music", (like ceiling-staring) really a form of self-centeredness on the part of the performer?
_________________________
RachOn
Estonia 190; Yamaha U1

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#580920 - 12/14/07 10:23 PM Re: Ceiling staring
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3165
I recall reading that when one is asked a certain type of question, they look upwards as they think out the answer. I have seen this many times when someone is asked to recall something..they put their hand on their chin, and look upwards. Perhaps this is related to pianists looking upwards...I know I do that from time to time.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#580921 - 12/14/07 11:01 PM Re: Ceiling staring
Cherub Rocker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/11/06
Posts: 471
Loc: North Carolina, USA
Who cares what the pianist looks like when he performs? As a professional pianist, I don't care how I look when I perform--I'm going to experience the music I play. People are paying to listen to me--when I'm performing, I'm sharing something that is very personal. If the audience doesn't like it, too bad, the door's wide open.
_________________________
Schubert: Impromptus Op. 90, Nos. 2 and 4
Chopin: Etudes Op. 25, Nos. 10-12
Scriabin: Sonata No. 2

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#580922 - 12/14/07 11:06 PM Re: Ceiling staring
Cherub Rocker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/11/06
Posts: 471
Loc: North Carolina, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by RachOn:
"we...want to have our experience of the music, not see you having your experience of the music."

That's going to stick with me.

So then, are visual expressions of "getting lost in the music", (like ceiling-staring) really a form of self-centeredness on the part of the performer? [/b]
So rock and pop stars can rock out and enjoy the music but not classical pianists?

Performing is a very-centered thing to do.
_________________________
Schubert: Impromptus Op. 90, Nos. 2 and 4
Chopin: Etudes Op. 25, Nos. 10-12
Scriabin: Sonata No. 2

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#580923 - 12/14/07 11:07 PM Re: Ceiling staring
Cherub Rocker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/11/06
Posts: 471
Loc: North Carolina, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by cherub_rocker1979:
 Quote:
Originally posted by RachOn:
"we...want to have our experience of the music, not see you having your experience of the music."

That's going to stick with me.

So then, are visual expressions of "getting lost in the music", (like ceiling-staring) really a form of self-centeredness on the part of the performer? [/b]
So rock and pop stars can rock out and enjoy the music but not classical pianists?

Performing itself is self-centered [/b]
_________________________
Schubert: Impromptus Op. 90, Nos. 2 and 4
Chopin: Etudes Op. 25, Nos. 10-12
Scriabin: Sonata No. 2

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#580924 - 12/14/07 11:34 PM Re: Ceiling staring
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoloverus:


So... what's your opinion of this staring at the ceiling? [/b]
off hand, i'll share what i do and that is look at the ceiling while 'memorizing' something.. it's very habitual... it's also very good for my neck, shoulder and upper back muscles. i don't think i have EVER done it in public. it seems kind of holy when people actually do it... as if they are communing with the great god of music or something.

as i have evolved, playing in public, i've realized that the less inhibited i am, the better i play. In the past i've been incredibly self conscious, immobile and stony faced. As i've gotten used to the public in the pews, my inhibitions are not so prominent and that is definitely a good thing.

it would certainly bother me if i thought a ceiling staring episode were contrived.
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)

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#580925 - 12/15/07 02:22 AM Re: Ceiling staring
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Would it be better if all the lights were to go off in the concert hall, so nobody could be distracted by anything the pianist was doing?
_________________________
Sam

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#580926 - 12/15/07 07:01 AM Re: Ceiling staring
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7896
There are some things that pianists sometimes do when performing that distract or annoy me. Looking upwards is not one of them. It's something that seems to occur quite naturally, and I think I would just as soon that the pianist not be self-consciously monitoring that kind of thing while performing, if it's just a spontaneous movement.

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#580927 - 12/15/07 07:39 AM Re: Ceiling staring
Muzzzz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 80
Loc: Australia
My explanation (I'm not saying it's right, by any means! \:\) )

I would assume that the ceiling-staring business - assuming it's a habit, not an act - subconsciously occurs from a desire to eliminate the VISUAL aspects of playing piano, so one can focus more on the MUSICAL aspects... just like when somebody is deep in thought - they often look up so that they can focus their attention on the current problem rather than other visual distractions.

If this is the case, i'm sure that you could get into the habit of staring at something a little closer to the ground, maybe just over the music stand into the darkness, or at a wall, etc.

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#580928 - 12/15/07 09:48 AM Re: Ceiling staring
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19472
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by signa:
[QB] actually i don't mind if a pianist does that once a while, since it's far better than making strange faces (Uchida comes to mind), sort of like pretending to be hugely emotionally involved.
I have been to at least 6 Uchida concerts and never noticed what for me were distracting facial expressions. I can virtually guarantee that if she does make faces that distract you it is not because she is "pretending".

I am curious about how forum members respond to this video of Yundi Li playing the second movement of Chopin's e minor concerto:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Mg24YsN0iuU

I think it is an incredibly beautiful performance and that his facial expressions add a great deal to the performance. I think he is anyting but pretending but instead is reacting to thie music which he seems to find sublime.

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#580929 - 12/15/07 10:13 AM Re: Ceiling staring
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19472
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by cherub_rocker1979:
Who cares what the pianist looks like when he performs? As a professional pianist, I don't care how I look when I perform--I'm going to experience the music I play. People are paying to listen to me--when I'm performing, I'm sharing something that is very personal. If the audience doesn't like it, too bad, the door's wide open. [/b]
I have listened to a few of your recordings at your website and thought they were terrific but I have to disagree with you on several points here.

If appearnace doesn't matter would it be OK to wear dirty jeans and a ripped t-shirt when you perform? I realize this is not exactly like looking at the ceiling or making faces but I think appearnance is a part of alive performance although a relatively small part.

As far as your saying the audience can leave if they don't like it, IMHO that is somewhat arrogant.

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#580930 - 12/15/07 11:08 AM Re: Ceiling staring
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18137
Loc: Victoria, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by cherub_rocker1979:
Who cares what the pianist looks like when he performs? As a professional pianist, I don't care how I look when I perform--I'm going to experience the music I play. People are paying to listen to me--when I'm performing, I'm sharing something that is very personal. If the audience doesn't like it, too bad, the door's wide open. [/b]
... and if your audience takes your advice, where are you? I find it difficult to believe that a professional performer would be this dismissive of his audience. You imply that performance is about communication, yet you contradict yourself by first saying that the audience is "paying to listen to [you]..."while you are "sharing something that is very personal," but then you add that the audience can leave if they don't like your demeanor. This doesn't sound like communication and sharing to me.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#580931 - 12/15/07 11:34 AM Re: Ceiling staring
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8904
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by RachOn:


So then, are visual expressions of "getting lost in the music", (like ceiling-staring) really a form of self-centeredness on the part of the performer?
I've wondered about that. Some years back I saw Schiff in the Brahms D minor, and he spent quite a bit of time looking upwards. Hard to say whether he was looking upward for inspiration, or just contemptuous of the audience.

But I've haven't attended a concert of his since.
_________________________
Jason

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#580932 - 12/15/07 11:41 AM Re: Ceiling staring
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
how can you hate this pianist?

minute 5 for ceiling staring

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNthyu6W0mw
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)

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#580933 - 12/15/07 12:04 PM Re: Ceiling staring
Bassio Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/24/03
Posts: 2480
Loc: Alexandria, Egypt
Ceiling staring is just another way to take a peak at the score when your memory slips a measure or two.

;\)

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#580934 - 12/15/07 08:07 PM Re: Ceiling staring
Lemon Pledge Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 353
 Quote:
Originally posted by RachOn:
So then, are visual expressions of "getting lost in the music", (like ceiling-staring) really a form of self-centeredness on the part of the performer? [/b]
No, they are not, if by self-centered you mean something intended to draw attention away from the sound and toward the performer.

"Getting lost in the music" may be a vague and silly-sounding phrase, but we all know what it means, and I can't think of a better way to describe it. It's a noble goal. Some pianists are able to achieve this while staring at the keys and making zero movements, except those necessary for the physical production of sound. And good for them. But not everyone is built this way. If staring at the ceiling (or some other mannerism) helps a pianist get where he needs to be, he'll generally do it, and won't be discouraged by a few offended souls in the audience. It usually has nothing to do with "ego" in the pejorative sense.

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#580935 - 12/15/07 08:14 PM Re: Ceiling staring
Lemon Pledge Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 353

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#580936 - 12/15/07 09:36 PM Re: Ceiling staring
whippen boy Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
 Quote:
Originally posted by apple*:
it seems kind of holy when people actually do it... as if they are communing with the great god of music or something.
There's nothing holy about the ceiling.

Holey, maybe. \:D

And if it is, somebody[/b] better be staring at it!
_________________________
Grotrian 225
S&S Hamburg-C
M&H "A" at home

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#580937 - 12/15/07 09:45 PM Re: Ceiling staring
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8904
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by whippen boy:
There's nothing holy about the ceiling.
Indeed. As a fellow organist, presumably we have plenty of experience checking out the ceiling during boring sermons. If it is not too high, there will invariably be spider webs to enjoy.

Another diversion: play a numbers game with the hymnal plaque. Great fun. \:D
_________________________
Jason

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#580938 - 12/15/07 10:55 PM Re: Ceiling staring
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
. . . oh, never mind. I don' wanna get into this again. Takes too long to write it all out.

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#580939 - 12/15/07 11:06 PM Re: Ceiling staring
Opus_Maximus Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1495
I do it sometimes. Not at all out of wanting attention, but it's just a habit that i've developed naturally, I find it easeir to listen to myself that way, and I feel more open. I don't think it's that distracting, and when others do it, it doesn't distract me. Gilels, Pogorelich and Kissin frequently do it, and as long as it's not extreme a la Lang Lang, I don't see the problem.

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#580940 - 12/15/07 11:10 PM Re: Ceiling staring
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8904
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by tomasino:
. . . oh, never mind. I don' wanna get into this again. Takes too long to write it all out.
tomasino, if you have commented on this before on the forum, why not post a link to it? Anything you have to say is of interest to me.

My previous post was more "inside humour" with whippen boy.
_________________________
Jason

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#580941 - 12/15/07 11:22 PM Re: Ceiling staring
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
. . . oh, what the heck. Here I go.

Pianists ought to be required to take acting classes as part of the curriculum, or maybe get into an amateur production of Oklahoma, or Guys and Dolls, and really learn some stage savvy, and how to directly project themselves from a stage to an audience: and then sit down at the piano and play around with what they have learned, and see if they can't apply some of that knowledge while sitting sideways to the audience on a piano stool. They ought to take this seriously . . .

rather . . .

. . . than to repeat the catty remarks of a master class instructor to a student who perhaps is trying, is experimenting, is making an effort, at learning how to perform from the constraints of a piano stool. The student, rather than being cut short and embarrassed, ought to be encouraged to go further in experimenting with stage deportment.

Most of the stage demeanor I see of young, budding piano virtuosos is flat, ugly, and untutored, and redolent of the attitude that all that matters is how it sounds.

Nuff said. Cripes.

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#580942 - 12/16/07 07:41 PM Re: Ceiling staring
Schubertian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 937
Loc: Dallas, TX, US
I absolutely agree with the last post - bringing a piece to life for an audience is exactly what an actor has to do - by drawing on knowledge, technique, understanding and an inner communion with the artist. It is a problem of hermeneutics.

Other than that - stage presence is also a matter of good manners.

To project an 'flat, ugly' bearing may also just be a case of stage fright.

Ceiling staring is harmless - I have a tendency to let my jaw drop open - WIDE - when I am concentrating hard - completely involuntary - ceiling staring is benign and 'spiritual' by comparison.

I think Liszt in his younger teen idol days would stare at female audience members -
_________________________
'Always remember: the higher we fly the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.""
- Nietzsche

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#580943 - 12/16/07 08:52 PM Re: Ceiling staring
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7896
Stage manners are interesting. I've seen all kinds, from the most polished and confident to the painfully self-conscious, to the more or less non-existent, but I really don't retain a memory of them unless they were really unusual in some way. What I remember is what I am there for, which is the playing, the music-making. But sure, the kind of performer who can breeze onto stage and create a positive atmosphere before playing a note has demonstrated a certain talent - I'm just not convinced it has anything to do with anything very important, since I can't correlate my remembered impressions of really great performances with anything very consistent about stage presence. It takes all kinds.

I will say that I can't deal with watching Mustonen play, but that doesn't keep me from enjoying some of his performances - I just shut my eyes or look elsewhere. I'm pretty sure he doesn't do what he does just out of a lack of manners.

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#580944 - 12/17/07 01:13 AM Re: Ceiling staring
DestinysPuppet Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/07
Posts: 41
Loc: Argentina
I agree with the latter posts. Staring at the ceiling, making faces or, alternatively, being a complete mummy (when it is not a result of stiffness/nervousness) are personal gestures and should not be repressed or forced. If you have to make an effort to either stay still or "dance" in your stool, then you are only building up tension and distracting yourself from your goal.

I'm a very shy person, and in my case, "letting go" and becoming more involved with the music invariably involves some kind of strange movement or another. I "dance" much more than other pianists and I also make some faces (though I prefer torso movement, apparently). I've watched videos of myself playing and was surprised at my own movements, signalling that I'm not fully conscious of them in those moments. If anyone where to point out that I should correct that, it'd be a tremendous setback for me. It's only a sign that I'm connecting to the audience and opening up.

While I sometimes find it funny what some pianists do while they perform, I'm not really there to stare at their faces. Classical music audiences can be really uptight sometimes, they should relax a little.

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#580945 - 12/17/07 05:20 AM Re: Ceiling staring
Janus K. Sachs Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1710
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
With pianists doing so many other extreme stage antics, ceiling staring almost doesn't register for me. I certainly don't find it distracting.
You know, I must say I find the whole concern for "stage presence" somewhat odd. A lot of the time I find myself closing my eyes or naturally looking away when I'm one of the audience in a live performance. And I myself have never paid attention to my own stage presence, simply because I have no idea what it means to consciously develop a stage presence, and also because I've never been criticised for my stage presence by any of my past teachers (and in fact some have said my stage presence is "excellent", whatever that means, not only in piano but also when I've sang in opera).
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurcke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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