In what ways can a musician adjust his or her performance by taking into account the characteristics of a specific type of venue?


Every performance is unique and depends on many factors, including a performer’s physical and psychological condition, their connection with the repertoire, and most importantly, the conditions presented by the venue. In this research project, I am concentrating on the latter parameter. Using background research and my own experiences and experiments, I will discuss how the limitations and possibilities presented by various venues can influence a given performance.


When I am in top form… the ideas are always different. Sometimes I play with greater changes in dynamics, sometimes with less... I must say it is different each time I play, and it is a process which… includes mastery of the work, knowing the details, being comfortable with it, and then adding the fantasy. (Emil Gilels, Mach, 123)


According to Gilels, mastering a piece of music and knowing all of its details provides an opportunity to be flexible in performance. Similarly, Chaffin, Lemieux and Chen argue in their study entitled "It’s Different Each Time I Play: Why Highly Polished Performances Vary" that every performance is different on a subconscious level, even if the performer is striving for a fixed interpretation (Chaffin et al., 2004, 469). This research project will however concentrate on the conscious decisions musicians make when adapting their performances to specific venue. By focusing on this aspect of live performance, I hope to gain insight on a topic that, despite its obvious importance to anyone who steps on stage, is often omitted during a musician's training.


Through preliminary background research and my own experiences, I will list the factors that can influence a performance that are conditioned by the venue. In particular, I will study how three types of venues (concert halls, music clubs, and private homes) can influence these factors. I will then study what limitations and advantages are created by these factors; and finally, I will decide how all of this will influence my own interpretation at the piano. I will focus my experimentation here on one piece in particular: Busoni’s transcription of the Chaconne from the Partita in D minor for violin solo by J. S. Bach. I have chosen this piece for its clear structure as well as its openness to many different interpretive possibilities. In my experience, this highly familiar piece of music also tends to elicit a strong response from audiences, so I expect that any interpretive modifications I make will be audible to seasoned classical music listeners.


As such, I will prepare three different interpretations of the Chaconne and test each of them in the venue for which they were designed. In order to do this I will first create a tablea model for adjusting one's performance—where I will list the factors and opportunities / demands of each specific venue. Based on these factors I will construct an interpretation that takes into account the requirements of each specific venue. After testing each interpretation in its appropriate venue, I will then analyze recordings of these experimental performances in order to evaluate the success or failure of my interpretative decisions, and determine their implications as related to factors such as: performers' rational versus instinctive adjustments, their flexibility of interpretation, how they prepare for performance, and their perceptiveness as related to the conditions of a venue. By undertaking this research project, I hope to better understand the process of making conscious adjustments to one's performances as opposed to preparing and copying one fixed interpretation and then pasting it to different stages.