After my concerto performance last June, I was chatting with a lovely woman from the audience. “It’s not like you’re blowing through the oboe,” she said. People are always interested in the AIR, and I had just finished talking about circular breathing with someone else. So I was sure I knew what she was about to say, but I was wrong. “It’s as though you’re sending your very soul through it.”
Needless to say, this statement floored me. Because it was so poetic and lovely, and because it made the work I had just done – a real physical effort, right? – seem like a greater good, somehow. Because it actually felt incredibly resonant to the way I think about the oboe, and about air and breathing and support, and was just such a perfect and efficient way to say the thing I always struggle to describe.
On the physical side, I relate very well to the verb “sending”, compared to the word “blowing”. To blow feels adversarial, like blowing OUT a candle, like blowing AT something external to you. It feels shallow, like something you do with just your MOUTH, limited to the top of your body. Sometimes the oboe does feel like an adversary, but this is not the way I like to relate to it. Instead, if I can SEND or PUSH from within me, if I can feel as though I am producing the sound from somewhere much deeper than my head, it feels so much more personal. So much deeper. So much more me.
(I would not necessarily use the word PUSH with a young student. There are some real PRESSURE problems that could come out of that imagery. I would say, SING it out from deep within yourself, or SEND the sound out on the air. So don’t read my words and get weird, STUDENTS. We’re just talking here.)
Indeed, in both a metaphorical and a very direct, physical way, I like to feel as though I am projecting myself out through the oboe, originating the sound deep within my body and using the instrument simply as the vehicle for sharing it. When a performance is really in flow – when all elements are functioning optimally, when the magic truly happens – the communication is direct – not from my oboe to your ear, but from my soul to yours.
In my EXTROBOE camp last weekend, I found myself using this description several times. I was a little embarrassed sharing the story of the nice lady from the audience – because her description is SO poetic and lovely, it feels like bragging to talk about it at all. But one person after another found a breakthrough in air, projection, FLOW when we began to explore that metaphor.
Words matter. There’s something there. I love it.