It probably won't surprise you to discover that I am a total music geek.
Among my many obsessions, when I was a student I became fascinated with early violin recordings from the early Twentieth Century. Apart from being able to dip my toe in a sound world that had otherwise been lost, what became a fascination of mine was how the recording process itself seemed to have changed the concert goer's expectations. The 1890s to the 1950s charts out a modernisation of the violin sound on recordings, but it also saw an amalgamation of styles and an increased scrutiny of performance in general. Something about being able to replay a wrong note again and again made the pressure for note perfect musical interpretations even greater than it had been before. The blemishes and quirky musical decisions that you'll find on some of the early recordings started to disappear and a kind of homogenised, standardised violin sound started to emerge by the 1950s. Technology also gave birth to recordings that could be autotuned, cut and spliced. This had its pros and cons.
The same could be said for photography - as we've developed the ability to cut, crop and airbrush photos, it's become the norm to use those tools on every image that is published. Just like the recordings, it's possible to make stunning creations with this technology, but also to create sounds and visuals that aren't actually human, or true to life any more. Photoshopped models give young girls and boys unrealistic ideas about beauty. Autotuned vocals give fans unrealistic impressions of how their favourite singer sounds live, and, call me old fashioned, but something about it all takes away from the honesty and truth of what it is to be human.
Why all this?
Well - we seem to developed an 'autotune attitude' to life. And by implication, as is so often the case, we think that because something applies in the world of 'stuff', it also applies in the realm of the mind, but it ain't necessarily so.
This week I had a couple of occasions when I felt extremely low - lower than I've felt in several weeks in fact. In those moments (several hours in each case this week) it's always natural to ask 'why?' and look outside myself for the 'cause' of my low mood, even though there can never be an external reason for an internal weather change. A few years ago I'd have also kept those kinds of dips in mood a closely guarded secret - especially as a coach - I didn't want to show that I didn't have my moods under control. This time felt different. I'm writing about this in my blog today because it seems especially important to remind you that no-one ever has their mind 'under control', in the way that social media likes to imply that they do. Your mind is always a free agent, that does as it pleases. No strings attached. I also wanted to remind you that if you have a low mood that seems very serious, very personal and like you're the only person in the world experiencing it, then in truth you are never alone. The feelings I had this week felt very ominous - like a dark void looking for reasons in my personality, my achievements or my work to blame its own darkness on. But the one thing I've realised this week for myself is that no matter how dark and personal a feeling may seem, it's only ever made in an impersonal way - through the power of Thought. So even a 'highly personal' feeling is never actually anything to do with you. It's Thought's thought - not yours.
There seems to be amazing freedom in having a willingness to fully embrace our lows as well as our highs. To look darkness in the eye when it shows up and serve it a cup of tea - and show up it surely does. No matter who you are or how much you pretend that you're always 'motivated'. There's no stigma, no need to hide, no need to pretend, no need to judge, no need to improve. No need to pimp your mind, autotune the voices in your head or photoshop the pictures. The human experience is already divine - all that's needed is a little bravery to stay on the rollercoaster. Trust me - you can take it. You can experience a horrible feeling and still live to tell the tale. The world keeps on spinning whatever feeling you experience. You can feel rubbish and take the trickery of that 'personal' message with a pinch of salt. Just be willing to let it play out without trying to 'improve' it and see what happens.
Hang in there!
I'm about to start a Kickstarter campaign to gain momentum ahead of the book launch - so watch out for more news coming soon!
I'm also delighted to announce that along with my colleague Robin Lockhart I'm running a pilot programme called 'Find Clarity in Performance' at Trinity Laban Conservatoire which is funded by the National Lottery Awards for All Scheme.
I'm going to need your help for the launch of my new book, 'Just Play: The Simple Truth Behind Musical Excellence'. The launch is happening soon and I will be announcing the launch date shortly. Book sales will be used as vehicle to raise funds for Help Musicians UK's mental health campaign, Music Minds Matter.
I will be aiming for a number one best seller on Amazon, so I will need the help and assistance of a great many people and organisations to make that a reality. If you have an idea or would like to help in some way please do get in touch. A number one bestseller will make sharing a message of wellbeing easier and will make it simpler to impact the lives of musicians and other people who are striving for excellence or even just after some peace of mind.
There are several ways you can get involved in the growing community of flourishing, happy, healthy musicians and performers who are awake to the future of performance psychology.
If you haven't done so yet, do ask to join the Peak Performance for Musicians Facebook Group - there you'll find free webinars, interviews, Facebook lives and a chance to ask questions and get support and to network with professional and amateur musicians.
Check out the videos on the Nick Bottini Youtube channel.
Get my Five Essential Tips For Any Musician ebook or share the link with a friend or colleague.
Get in touch about me working with you one-to-one, or with your organisation or ensemble.
Join my book launch team to help me make 'Just Play: The Simple Truth Behind Musical Excellence' become a bestseller when in launches in May.
If you know anyone who would like to receive updates about the book, know any famous musicians who would like to perform at the launch party or know anyone who would be willing to get behind the book launch then please do get in touch with me.