Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | May 27, 2012

The Performer…The Listener

As a musician, I’ve received different advice when it comes to the audience. For those of you who are not performers, imagine this:

You walk into a room of people to give a speech. You spent hours working on your talking points. On the day of your speech, you are engaging, funny and informative. Yet as you speak, in walks this group who are loud, disrespectful and uncompromising. You ask them to please respect those who are listening and they refuse. Do you think you can carry on your speech with this type of distraction?


I’ve encountered similar situations at a variety of performances. Some elders say “create music that draws people in. If the musical message is powerful, there will be no need for addressing the issue with words. Music is community.”

Other elders convey, “People don’t listen. They are part of the microwave generation. Before the invention of canned music, people had to wait to listen to music. It wasn’t readily available. They had a greater appreciation for creators of music.”

Since 1988 when I first stood on a stage, I’ve grappled with the performer and listener relationship. In the early years, I felt the audience should come with an understanding of how to behave (when to clap and when to talk). When listeners showed up and responded in ways that were different from my socialized thoughts, I became frustrated and said things like “Why would you come to a concert to talk?”

My thoughts were quickly cured when I attended an orchestral performance that was very stiff.  During the performance, the audience was dead quiet. Between movements folks would cough and then wait until the end of the performance to clap. I loved performing in orchestras. From a performing stand point, I appreciated the etiquette applied to these events. But at this particular concert, I was part of the listening audience. I fell asleep. After the concert I thought, “I hope I wasn’t snoring…loud.”

Though I appreciate audience etiquette, I think music can motivate an organic interactive reaction. As I’ve grown musically, so has my appreciation for human collective behavior, especially meditation. When the music is right, it feels like the band is collectively meditating. With the channels of communication open, the audience can feel the vibrations and join in. Anyone who walks into the room can feel the energy and are compelled to take part in the celebration. The band becomes the light and we connect everyone in the room to the spirit of music.

I must admit there are nights when this is not achieved but instead of casting blame on the audience member(s) that appeared rude, insensitive or uncultured, I look at self. I ask “how did I fail to connect with this spirit before me?” The mantra playing in my mind: Music is community.

Before we could talk, we used music to communicate. In any form of communication, the path must be traveled by two or more effectively. Music is not masturbation or a soliloquy. Music is, among many definitions, unifying.

As a performer who will continue to learn, unlearn and relearn, I hope to create music that inspires love in the listener.



  1. Reblogged this on THE PLUGININ EXCHANGE.

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