{September 30, 2011}   Performing Nerves

I want to talk for a bit about nerves. I’d like to say ‘specifically the subconscious kind’, but I’m not even sure that that’s getting it right… I’m talking about the nerves that you can’t feel, you can’t understand and you can’t compehend why they’re even there. You didn’t think “Oh, that bit’s so tricky, what if I screw up…” You didn’t feel butterflies in your stomach or your heart beat raise. You didn’t feel or think anything, and you have no reason to be nervous anyway.

And yet it happens. Whether it be because this time you’re recording the guitar piece that you’ve practiced and perfected, or because you’ve hardly performed magic in front of anyone before (no matter how good friends they are and how well you know them and they know you), or for no reason you can discern, it will happen. Your hands shake. They fumble at the chords and picks that, seconds earlier were flowing perfectly as though you’d known them for years. Now it’s like some weird game of tag where you have to plot ahead to get a chance at cornering and grabbing them so that you can hear them squeal in annoyance. Now that simplest of card tricks is something quite extraordinary, but not in the way you’d have liked, as your hands tremor with such a magnitude that everyone laughs nervously. The trick gets done, and all are amazed you could pull off such a feat when your fingers seemed so compelled to grant the cards their freedom. The speech that you were so proud to be giving suddenly becomes something to be nervous about… now that your vocal chords are chattering like novelty plastic teeth.

I hope that somewhere in the world of science, where the most intelligent of people are dedicated to research such topics as what chemicals will reduce the appearance of ageing and how can we make a hotel in space, there is someone trying to figure out what these phantom nerves are, where they come from, and whether practice really is the only cure.


Prompted by my day of guitar practice. I’ve finally worked out how to play this lovely piece; ‘A Girl, A Boy And A Graveyard’ by Jeremy Messersmith. It’s one of the most beautiful songs I know, so it’s really great to finally have it worked out. Very difficult to play and I certainly can’t sing along with it just yet, but it’s pretty much there. I wish I could share it now, but there’s something about the guitar that makes it very hard to record normally. I think I may need to buy specialised equipment for it because it either comes out very quiet or horribly distorted. Not to mention the phantom nerves!



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