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Beauty in Movement

A couple months ago I was making a comment to the staff at church. I was trying to summarize the difference between good musicians and mediocre musicians and I was pretty sure I had discovered the easiest way to differentiate between the two. A good musician will play the music with their whole body, not just their fingers.

I have been stewing on this thought for many weeks now and I genuinely think that it is true. Someone who is 100% involved in performing a work of music will not be able to help pouring their whole selves into the performance, and it will show with their whole body language, not just the perceived sound.

Consider for instance, the following clip of the world renowned Yo-Yo Ma's performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto.
Even before he begins playing there is music in the way he raises his bow for the first time. Contrast the bodily connection that Yo-Yo Ma has with his orchestral counterparts. There is a reason he is the soloist and the other musicians are not.

Consider another example found in this clip of young ballerinas performing in one of their first dance recitals.
Contrast this performance with the following of the Cincinnati Ballet company...


There is beauty in the movement of the players. There is beauty expressed in the journey from one pose to the next. Unlike the 5 year old dancers who strike a pose and haltingly find the next position they should be in, the professional artists make it pleasant to watch how they get from position one to position two. They make the movements between them artistic.

A good musician does the same thing. It isn't just about playing all the right notes and getting the order of them correct. It's about what happens between the notes--all those little nuances that can't be expressed on paper or realized through a recording, but rather felt as an intimate connection between performer and music, between listener and performance, and between soul and sound.

This is why we still love to go to recital halls and watch the ballet. There is a missing link when we listen to a performance on a CD that we are missing. It is the added element of performance that can only be perceived by the eye. And likewise, without that element, the performance would suffer sonically.

There is a line in the animated movie Cars that says "It's not about the destination, it's about the journey." I whole-heartedly agree with that sentiment on both a large scale (life/roadtrip/season of life) and a small scale (performance/daily activity/everyday experience). Whether you are considering the journey from infancy to adulthood or the manner in which you live in the moment with a child throughout the day, it isn't about the activity or about doing the right thing or what have you, it is about the heart you have while you do it. It's about being present in the moment and moving with grace from one action to the next. It's about doing the right thing and asking for grace after doing the wrong thing. That is the difference between someone who has their act together and someone who is just pushing through to the next thing. The difference between the artist and the amateur. The difference between music and art.
It's the beauty in the movement.

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