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Sympathy for the Epic Fail

Friday, April 15, 2011

In her recent book Being Wrong, writer and journalist Kathryn Schulz explores how error changes us for the better. She looks at how thinking about "mistakes" has changed over centuries -- and she explores the relationship between error, creativity and revision. Schulz says that sometimes being wrong…might actually be right.

We'll be joined by Schulz and violinist Lara St. John to discuss the intersections between making mistakes and making music.

This is a repeat edition of Soundcheck.


Lara St. John and Kathryn Schulz

Comments [9]

Mary Ann Willoughby from NY NY

I was a professional dancer for 20 years and I remember several amazing mistakes on stage that actually made the performance much more exciting and raw. One time I fell on my butt with both legs thrown up in the air, I bounced like a rubber ball and people thought it was choreographed. The other big one was when I actually closed my eyes while waiting for my cue (lying on the ground) and fell into a sort of dream state, my partner had to jolt me out of it with a good swift kick. I will never forget that rush of adrenaline, it made great tension between us which helped the piece of choreography.

Apr. 15 2011 10:44 PM
Al Olivier - Jazz Pianist from Morristown NJ - - 07960

Study with unsung hero pedagogue - Joseph Prostakoff (co-author of Mastering the Chopin Etudes) told me once if not a hundred times: when you make a mistake - make it with "authority"! Witness Horowitz, et al.
Regarding Jazz Improvisation, author Jerry Koker on the subject: It's a game, and the audience wants to play the game, so the improviser is the "croupier" and if he consistently plays according to certain "rules of jazz improvisation" the audience, with trained and experienced Western ears, will be able to anticipate the next note sequence of the improvisation - so they win that time - sometimes they lose - but at one for one, they will remain interested in the performance - - too many times that they lose because the improvisor is "way out" in the spheres, they will lose interest and not want to play anymore - same if they get bored because they guess correctly (win) all the time.
So much more wisdom on Jazz Improv from people like "Coach" Doctor Barry Harris, noted Jazz Educator and Improviser still conducting workshops in NYC on Tues eves at Lincoln Square Center, 65th St.

Apr. 15 2011 03:46 PM

James Joyce wrote in Ulysses, chapter 9, "A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and portals of discovery."

Apr. 15 2011 02:59 PM
Dingbats from Manhattan

The record my band and I are almost done with has been in the works for a year. We're all really happy with it, but it's remarkable how many mistakes made it into the final cut - our bassist is so loose, our drummer missed a ton of hits and my guitar entrances are consistently late. I wasn't happy about this at first, but after a year of slaving away on this record, I've come to realize that getting it perfect is less important than getting it done.

Apr. 15 2011 02:35 PM

Show is a repeat, but I had to write in and complain that too much of classical music education for children is about removing "mistakes" instead getting inside the music. Having been there myself as a child violinist, and watched this play out with two sons and a stepdaughter over countless clinics and recitals, it's become clear how wrong this approach can be for nurturing a love of the music. (The previous commenter who pointed out that error-free performances argue against the premise was correct.)

Apr. 15 2011 02:35 PM
Paul DiDario

As a concert pianist, I've always been driven to be as perfect as possible. This, of course has been crippling emotionally and does affect perfromaces. This past week I played a concert in which I sprained my finger days before the concert, have not had adequate time to prepare the work I was playing. So I just decided to do the best I could under the circumstances, forgiving myself for my lack of perfection. The result was a very emototional performance to which the audience responded very favorably. This is a very freeing discussion. Thank you for writing this book. I will buy it right away.

Apr. 15 2011 02:32 PM
adam from fort lee, nj

Was hoping to hear more mistakes on record. Doesn't the lack of examples sort of speak against your premise?

Apr. 15 2011 02:23 PM
Adam from Brooklyn

A friend asked me to play keyboards on an album for a band, and while I'm not a trained player, I'm a musical person and a pal of the group, so I said "of course." My nervous hands and weak technique caused me to accidentally trill a line of 8th notes that the producer ended up loving and said, "That makes the line sound so cool!" They kept it, and seeing it performed live was a moment I'll never forget.

Apr. 15 2011 02:19 PM
Nick from UWS

The best possible thing to do when you make a serious error on stage is to stop the performance cold and say "WAIT A MINUTE, WAIT A MINUTE, I'VE SCREWED THIS WHOLE THING UP."

Everyone will laugh, you'll start again and do perfectly fine, and no one will ever think about it again. I've done this countless times and it never fails.

Apr. 15 2011 02:11 PM

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