Marian Seldes observed that one of the great problems of being an actor was accepting, or coming to terms with the inevitable rejection in auditioning for roles each year.
Along with artistic capacity — we can add to the list of necessary attributes for a performer some means for handling disappointment. It’s curious balance. We seek persons of delicate sensitivity and perception; they also need to withstand the turbulence of other people’s negative opinions, and their own.
It is good to develop the habit of working on this methodically when negative eddies swirl up. A reminder to stick to the “facts” may be needed.
During a concert, a musical performer’s qualitative artistic judgements are usually not helpful. A high level of operational discernment is helpful. “Is the pitch higher?” “Is this the end of the beat?” “Are we together?”
“Was it good?” or “What does it mean?” are usually not beneficial questions for the musician in the midst of making music.
As much as we need to develop nuanced artistic and aesthetic judgement, it’s useful to be able to operate at an immediate, moment-by-moment, even corporeal level in a performance.
Sigmund Freud described “gleichschwebende Aufmerksamkeit” (“evenly divided attention”) as the ideal mental state for the psychiatric analyst. For the analyst, he advocated a readiness to shift attention rapidly as it becomes necessary. This feels like the condition of a performer during good musical performance.
The artist needs patience, and impatience, high seriousness, and mirth — and at the right time. These attributes probably won’t all be functioning at the same moment.