Philip G Anderson ~ Always Present

Fear. It’s a taboo topic for musicians. Our audiences don’t want to see our fear, because it disrupts their enjoyment of the performance and because it complicates the narrative that music is transcendental. And the thing is, music is transcendental. It’s just that performing can also make you feel like you’re about to fill your pants.

I know a couple of relatively well-known and respected performers who after a lifetime of getting up on the stage have found that they can no longer manage the stage fright. They do not talk about this publicly. I myself struggle with stage fright and although I generally deal with it fine, there is always a chance that a well-prepared performance will blow up and I will become a floppy wreck. Part of performing is a confidence trick: you persuade your body to act as if you were relaxed (slow, deep breaths and movements) and in doing so you allow yourself to stay in control.

There are two more reasons why musicians don’t talk about fear. One is that not everyone experiences it as intensely. Some people just have a natural gift for getting up on a stage. Those who do suffer with stage fright see these confident extroverts and ask themselves “am I defective because I am not as confident as them?”

Another reason we don’t talk about it is that we are aware that, of all the things to be fearful, getting up on stage to play music is almost certainly the least deadly. There are people all around the world right now experiencing fear because of a life-and-death situation. Our stage fright can feel ridiculous and absurdly self-indulgent in light of this.

Philip G Anderson‘s fear is Always Present. Over nine tracks he explores his fear with the help of violinist-producers Laura Masotto and Shawn Williams and improvisatory group Trio Ramberget, and dancers Maia Charanis, Meg Gourley, Emma Morris and choreographer Liz Stillerman, who put together the electrifying and award-winning performance in the video below.

This is not a restful album, indeed it’s probably the most intense album of music for felted piano you’re likely to ever hear. After a brief introduction, the first main track “Chaos” is as hectic as its title suggests. The serious tone of “Confidence” suggests that while we can choose to appear assured, our body may be feeling distinctly otherwise. Even in the more tranquil “Comfort” there’s an ever-present harmonic tension.”To Be Brave” with Laura Masotto is a contemplative and serious depiction of courage, and the gorgeous title track with its harmonic and timbral twists and turns courtesy of Trio Ramberget seems to suggest that we can learn how to navigate the maze of our emotions.

Neither it is an album that offers us a tritely hopeful ending. Album closer “Familiar”, with Shawn Williams, is beautiful but deeply melancholy, sweetened with just the occasional twist towards a major chord. Anderson seems to be telling us that this fear is unavoidable, but that through familiarity we can learn to work with it.

Anderson is to be praised for taking such a clear-eyed look at himself and being willing to explore this taboo topic so publicly. On a superficial level this might feel like a project created for musicians, but because fear is something we will all experience in our lives, regardless of whether it is on stage or in a hospital waiting room, this is music that has something to teach us all. (Garreth Brooke)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: