how to get over traumatic memory slip experience

Posted by: Pogorelich.

how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/02/12 11:35 AM

Any advice? I have two concerts next week, and just bombed a concert on Friday - had a catastrophic memory slip in the 1st movement of Rachmaninoff 1st sonata (was playing random crap for a few seconds, then stopped, apologized and skipped 3-4 pages and continued on), and I have to play this again twice next week. I feel traumatized - this sort of thing has never happened to me before, ever.

I know it happens to everyone, but it was probably the most frightening experience of my life. Has that ever happened to you and how did you recover from it before your next performance??
Posted by: Keith D Kerman

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/02/12 12:26 PM

Unfortunately, the only way one finds out what they don't really know in a piece of music is to perform it under pressure.

I would recommend first trying to figure out what happened. Why did it happen? I would then try and build extra fail safes into that section. How many different ways is that section memorized? Aural? Physical? Visual? Harmonic? Emotional? Interpretive?

Is the fingering absolutely determined and automatic?

I would also make sure that I had more references that were closer together, so if it happens again, the next spot you think of is 2 measures away, rather than 1 page away.

Try practicing with a recreation of the pressure that may have thrown you. Record yourself as if you are performing it. Get peers who make you nervous to listen to you run it through.

This has happened to me, at various levels, and honestly, I am pretty clever about how I learn a piece of music, but when something like this worries me, I make sure I just beat that section into my muscle memory until I can't screw it up. And, while I am beating it to death, it is also reinforcing all of my other memory fail safes.

Anyways, I am sorry you went through this cause I know how much it is traumatizing, but, you just have to get back on that horse again and start building more and more successes until the emotional energy from this nightmare weakens.
Posted by: DanS

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/02/12 12:53 PM

It happens to everyone!

Try writing out that section on paper, or playing through it in your head several times. That'll show any weak spots.

As for getting over the performance jitters that this can cause, try performing it as much as possible before your next big performance. Most elder care facilities have a piano in their main room. All you have to do is show up and ask to play. They always say yes, and they're an appreciative audience. A lot of restaurants have piano and nobody playing during lunchtime. They're another great place to try before you play more serious venues.

HTH,

dan
Posted by: Damon

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/02/12 01:09 PM

Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.

I know it happens to everyone, but it was probably the most frightening experience of my life. Has that ever happened to you and how did you recover from it before your next performance??


I didn't recover before my next performance. I got over it after my next performance, which went well. I've never come to a complete stop, however, but I have repeated previous measures several times until muscle memory finally remembered.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/02/12 01:41 PM

Try writing the piece out on paper from memory. Although this may take a whole with the Rachmaninoff sonata.
Posted by: Pogorelich.

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/02/12 05:28 PM

Thanks all. I'd love to write it out, but the next performance is in 3 days and I should be practicing.... I know why it happened (the ONLY place of the piece that I know I can't play my left hand alone), I had about 15 hours of notice for this concert, then had to spend 5 hours of masterclass and function on no sleep, and almost no practice time. So I know all that. I just wonder how I can mentally get over this and not be afraid of the piece...
Posted by: ando

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/02/12 05:33 PM

I find the better I understand a piece harmonically speaking, the less prone to memory blanks I am. I will also often play through a piece in chord clusters rather than how it's really played in terms of arpeggiations and figurations. That way the whole piece can be conceptualised as a chord progression, with certain melodic attributes. It breaks it all down so that once the fancy stuff is put back in, it's just decoration and it doesn't threaten your overall understanding and awareness of where you are in the grander scheme of things. This approach is obviously only going to work if you have a very thorough grasp of harmony, of course.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/02/12 05:39 PM

One thing that will definitely affect your memory is how tired you are. Make sure you get good sleep over the next few days.
Posted by: BDB

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/02/12 05:42 PM

Try to use up all of your memory slip credits to forget about your past memory slips.
Posted by: gooddog

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/02/12 05:56 PM

Pogo, I don't have much to add but I wanted you to know I am sorry you went through such a painful experience. Of course you know that no human is perfect; just don't forget to forgive yourself and move on.
Posted by: jmcintyre

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/02/12 09:44 PM

15 hours of notice?!?

I too am so sorry to hear what you went through, but you deserve a HUGE amount of credit for even taking that on. I hope you don't let it get to you in a bad way:

I can't offer any personal stories, and am not qualified to give advice to someone on your level, but it seems to me there's good advice above. Prepare as well as you can, but in the end don't let it get to you... you can only move forward.
Posted by: DonaldLee

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/03/12 06:45 AM

I would say take it head head on. As Uchida said about Schoenberg's Concerto: "You just have to get out there and 'hop' it goes!!!!". Had a similar experience at an area recital that I didn't sign up for. I was asked to perform Beethoven op. 81a on 30 minutes notice to fill up time, and I stupidly said yes. I had a terrible memory lapse during the second movement, and I just played random things until I got it back together. I had never been so shaken so much in my life, and had to get over the fear of performing. When I had to perform my Schubert Impromptu, I just had to walk out there quickly and start playing. After the first note, I was fine again. I just learned what my limits are, and now I can avoid that situation.
Posted by: sophial

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/03/12 11:42 AM

Try to play in the setting and on the piano you will be performing on or try it out in lots of different settings in practice performances. I'm always surprised at how my memory gets thrown off by just being in a different setting, with different lighting, instrument, and other variables.
Posted by: Derulux

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/03/12 11:54 AM

Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Thanks all. I'd love to write it out, but the next performance is in 3 days and I should be practicing.... I know why it happened (the ONLY place of the piece that I know I can't play my left hand alone), I had about 15 hours of notice for this concert, then had to spend 5 hours of masterclass and function on no sleep, and almost no practice time. So I know all that. I just wonder how I can mentally get over this and not be afraid of the piece...

It's very very tough, no doubt about it. I think it's critically important to accept that no matter what you do, you will be nervous when you step on stage. It's human nature. You can help to minimize it by practicing a psychological technique, the name for which (ironically) escapes me at the moment. Take a few minutes (or as much time as you can spare each day--especially when you wake up, first sit down at the keys, and go to sleep), and picture yourself playing the piece perfectly. Every note well. Every audience member enthralled. A very positive experience. The most positive you can make it.

Then, when you step on stage, a part of your mind will believe in that positive experience--the more you practice it mentally, the greater that mental picture will be when you get to the moment--and you will perform wonderfully.

It won't take away the nerves. But you will play it well. Then, afterwards, you will look back and laugh--and that will take away the nerves. smile
Posted by: MarkH

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/03/12 03:13 PM

Originally Posted By: ando
I will also often play through a piece in chord clusters rather than how it's really played in terms of arpeggiations and figurations. That way the whole piece can be conceptualised as a chord progression, with certain melodic attributes. It breaks it all down so that once the fancy stuff is put back in, it's just decoration and it doesn't threaten your overall understanding and awareness of where you are in the grander scheme of things.


This is great advice! I've been thinking of trying to do this more seriously. Thanks for the push smile
Posted by: Opus_Maximus

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/03/12 03:31 PM

Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Thanks all. I'd love to write it out, but the next performance is in 3 days and I should be practicing.... I know why it happened (the ONLY place of the piece that I know I can't play my left hand alone), I had about 15 hours of notice for this concert, then had to spend 5 hours of masterclass and function on no sleep, and almost no practice time. So I know all that. I just wonder how I can mentally get over this and not be afraid of the piece...


There's your best advice; right there. You were in no position to be playing onstage under those circumstances, especially from memory. As long as you know WHY it happened and how it won't happen again, that alone should give you enough mental peace of mind to relax you for your next performance.
Posted by: Barb860

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/05/12 12:03 AM

Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Thanks all. I'd love to write it out, but the next performance is in 3 days and I should be practicing.... I know why it happened (the ONLY place of the piece that I know I can't play my left hand alone), I had about 15 hours of notice for this concert, then had to spend 5 hours of masterclass and function on no sleep, and almost no practice time. So I know all that. I just wonder how I can mentally get over this and not be afraid of the piece...


You can let the experience define you, destroy you, or strengthen you. From your many posts here, we know you are a very talented, skilled pianist. You will be all the stronger from this experience.
Posted by: apple*

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/05/12 07:34 AM

maybe you could make a visual outline of the piece... you'll be ok i bet. I know 'writing' out a problem helps me. sometimes we just meet a glitch.

I like your advice Derulux.

good luck.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/05/12 09:08 AM

Sleep is extremely important, first of all.

Secondly, forgive yourself (or maybe that should be first smile ). Mistakes will happen, and understand that your audience will for the most part be gracious about it and wants you to succeed. Let the past go and move forward.

Third, be efficient with your practice time. Mark key spots in your music to start from. Choose from obvious places where the themes change first. Then take a look at where you had the memory slip, and find a place right after it that you can skip to next time. That will be Plan B (Plan A, of course, is to play it right). Be OK with having to skip measures. The piece can still be enjoyable to the audience even if you miss some things. Practice starting from these spots at random so that you can call them up at need.
Posted by: Pogorelich.

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/05/12 11:19 AM

Yes, I know how to practice - and I know why this happened, I just didn't do my homework enough and the piece is about 2 months old. So for me, very new. I agree with Morodene - and yes, I do all of that. I can usually start from any measure in a piece, with either hand. And yes, sometimes I go through the trouble of "play one bar and skip the next" - really helps! Or left hand with RH melody notes only, etc. I could've easily jumped that bar and gone on to the next phrase, but when your body and mind are so tired you lack your normal strength to get you through it. At least for me.

Just wanted advice on mentally getting over this.

Actually, I feel better. A colleague of mine laughed and said "[censored] happens to everyone" (he's of the most brilliant pianists I know) told me two horror stories that happened to him.. so we are all human. I will never let this happen again!
Posted by: carey

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/05/12 12:33 PM

Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Actually, I feel better. A colleague of mine laughed and said "[censored] happens to everyone" (he's of the most brilliant pianists I know) told me two horror stories that happened to him.. so we are all human. I will never let this happen again!


In other words, you will try not to put yourself in a similar situation in the future that might lead to this type of unfortunate event. grin

The best thing is to learn from the traumatic event and move on (which you are obviously doing thumb ). But don't be surprised if a similar thing happens in the future when you least expect it. Just pick up the pieces and move on from that as well. As humans, we are far from perfect....but we can always strive for perfection !!!
Posted by: Entheo

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/05/12 01:02 PM

more good recent advice on this subject...

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/1989780/
Posted by: im@me

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/06/12 12:38 PM

I recently played a Mozart sonata by memory, and half way through the last movement my mind went blank, so I improvised all of the recapitulation, and no one noticed laugh
Posted by: BruceD

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/06/12 01:19 PM

Originally Posted By: im@me
I recently played a Mozart sonata by memory, and half way through the last movement my mind went blank, so I improvised all of the recapitulation, and no one noticed laugh


That may say as much about your audience's level of musical knowledge and sophistication as it does about your improvisatory skills.

Regards,
Posted by: ando

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/06/12 01:48 PM

Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: im@me
I recently played a Mozart sonata by memory, and half way through the last movement my mind went blank, so I improvised all of the recapitulation, and no one noticed laugh


That may say as much about your audience's level of musical knowledge and sophistication as it does about your improvisatory skills.

Regards,


Still better than the alternative though (stopping, trying to restart). Even some audience members with some knowledge of Mozart might be debating among themselves whether you had some ultra-urtext transcription of the piece or something!

I think we are there to make music and entertain first, be correct second. I have no problem with such a thing happening. After all, it's exactly what Mozart himself would have done in one of his own recitals if he forgot part of the music. Talk about authentic! wink
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/06/12 07:32 PM

It's not a crime to use music, is it? Unless it's a requirement of a course, I'd use music. (I haven't read all the posts ... and this is my third glass of wine. I earned it.)
Posted by: Pogorelich.

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/06/12 08:25 PM

You cannot use music for a Rachmaninoff sonata... you kind of need to be looking at your hands... hahaha
Posted by: Entheo

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/06/12 10:41 PM

Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
You cannot use music for a Rachmaninoff sonata... you kind of need to be looking at your hands... hahaha


richter did.

you don't have to look at the music the whole time.
Posted by: BruceD

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/07/12 12:24 AM

Originally Posted By: ando
[...]some ultra-urtext transcription [...]


"... urtext transcription..."? Isn't that an oxymoron?
Posted by: ChopinAddict

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/07/12 12:27 AM

Maybe he means something like "beyond" with "ultra"?
Posted by: Pogorelich.

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/07/12 12:34 AM

Originally Posted By: Entheo
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
You cannot use music for a Rachmaninoff sonata... you kind of need to be looking at your hands... hahaha


richter did.

you don't have to look at the music the whole time.


Yeah. He's Richter. He can do anything.
Posted by: ando

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/07/12 02:53 AM

Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: ando
[...]some ultra-urtext transcription [...]


"... urtext transcription..."? Isn't that an oxymoron?


It was meant as a joke. But what I meant was it might be a transcription that predates the published version. An early pre-published version.
Posted by: wr

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/07/12 08:43 AM

Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: im@me
I recently played a Mozart sonata by memory, and half way through the last movement my mind went blank, so I improvised all of the recapitulation, and no one noticed laugh


That may say as much about your audience's level of musical knowledge and sophistication as it does about your improvisatory skills.



Not only knowledge and sophistication, but the amount of attention they were paying, too.

Back in the days when I did live performances, it always annoyed me a little when people would dismiss errors I made by saying that "nobody even noticed". Well, if they didn't notice, were they really listening? And if they weren't, what would be the point of playing?
Posted by: Piano Again

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/07/12 09:14 AM

Just look at it as a sign that you're a human being. smile In a way, that's what makes live performance exciting: you never know what's going to happen. You're not a machine.

My only comparable experience on the piano is when I try to play for my in-laws at their house after a holiday dinner. I ALWAYS totally bomb, whether I use music or not, even though the next day I can play the piece note perfect at home. It's probably a combination of their not-great piano, a too-low bench, and having imbibed a couple of glasses of wine in the preceding couple of hours.
Posted by: kathyk

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/07/12 10:26 PM

I chickened out of my piano performance major because my nerves (and self confidence?) were too frail. THis was 30+ years ago To this day, when I'm under pressure, my nerves just go bonkers and cause my fingers to turn to jello. I can play in front of hundreds of people in church when I know no one is really listening to me with no problem, but when I'm doing solo piano or am in a chamber group where I feel I'll let people down if I goof up, I have the most ridiculous bouts of nerves. I have started wondering about beta blockers. A friend of mine from Apple Hill Chamber Music Camp (a physician) has talked to me about how he has used them therapeutically with people to help them feel what it's like to be completely free of the extrinsic sorts of static that can cause memory blocks so as to let one know what it feels and from there work to understand how those outside pressures work and eventually overcome them. I'm very tempted to try it.
Posted by: Entheo

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/08/12 09:10 AM

Originally Posted By: wr
Back in the days when I did live performances, it always annoyed me a little when people would dismiss errors I made by saying that "nobody even noticed". Well, if they didn't notice, were they really listening? And if they weren't, what would be the point of playing?


but therein lies the rub IMHO; we put all of this undue pressure on ourselves believing that the audience knows (or should know) every score by heart, when in fact, unless it's a jury or an audition, they are simply there to enjoy the music (and themselves). what's noticeable to audiences in general is not the lack of note perfect but the big collapses -- no music degree required to recognize those.

so if you're skilled enough to play thru the lapse or you use the sheet music as an aid, there's no shame in either of them, as long as the spirit of the music shines thru. IMHO.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/08/12 09:39 AM

People listen to music in different ways. It doesn't mean they're not paying attention. Also, sometimes they do notice, but they just don't care, because they realise that live performances are rarely perfect.
Posted by: im@me

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/08/12 10:03 AM

it was on a recent piano course with various good pianists 2 of them concert pianists. And are Estonia pianos widely regarded as good pianos?







__________________________________________________________________
Posted by: carey

Re: how to get over traumatic memory slip experience - 12/08/12 10:29 AM

Originally Posted By: debrucey
People listen to music in different ways. It doesn't mean they're not paying attention. Also, sometimes they do notice, but they just don't care, because they realise that live performances are rarely perfect.


AND they're grateful that it is YOU up on the stage sweating bullets and not THEM !!! grin