Psychopaths and Narcissist, can they play with emotion?
One of the main character traits of psychopaths and narcissist is a lack of empathy. So is playing an instrument, other than for showing off, something they are good at? Are some of the top musicians psychopaths or narcissist, because of the attention and power, but wouldn't their music be unemotional? Do you know of any top musicians that are successful that would fit into this category? More show off than emotion to their art.
I can think of a few, but it is hard to tell.
Paganini comes to mind.
The key is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you got it made...
Psychopaths can become very good at faking it and putting on a performance socially. I could imagine them studying the typical ways each emotion sounds and copying the requisite movements on violin, facial expressions, and body language.
"Emotion" in violin playing is mostly just a bag of technical tricks that you learn to apply in various contexts. One might argue that a genuine emotional basis enables the performer to make better (more convincing? more tasteful?) choices among these tools, but the outcome is produced by technique.
Psychopaths and narcissists need not be in the same category. Expression of musical thought and sensibility is not equivalent to emotion.
Any group of human beings if large enough will include some wonderful people, some awful people, and some in between.
Psychopathy (and sociopathy) also present with features of superficial charm and cunning manipulation. Perhaps these characteristics would make them more convincing, not less.
Eh I'm not good with this but this is an interesting idea
Musicianship and artistry doesn't corner the market on sensitivity. Even in the worst of people I've met, they still held their skills, what ever it may be, and some at professional levels.
A lot of pop musicians are pure narcissists.
Who do you detect playing without emotion?
Heifetz once remarked that he had "to be Heifetz every day", presumably no matter how he felt.
I would imagine that narcissism could be an advantage in the area of stage fright. Same for psychopaths, since fear is diminished. Narcissists would probably think that they are so good that they couldn't possibly mess up, but I would hope that they could notice mistakes while practicing. They probably would have zero nerves!
Sometimes, I get so caught up in my mirror that I forget to practice.
I agree that appearing "emotional" is mostly a matter of technical prowess, but some highly skilled players can sound a bit too detached and "clinical", for lack of a better term (relative to their peers-they usually sound "emotional" to an extent because they generally do play at the highest technical level.)
Perhaps the term "narcissism" is not being used correctly here. I think the OP meant some kind of pathological condition. Just having enough self-assuredness to believe that you belong on stage (or in front of a classroom of chemistry students) ... I don't think that's narcissism.
I don't think naming names is appropriate.
Christian touches on the truth I think - these are convenient fashionable terms that do seem to have some relevance in describing the behavioural characteristics of certain individuals, but do they have any relevance when applied to musicians?
Conductors are the more relevant group, if you're talking about clinical narcissism.
If you Google "narcissism" and "manipulation" you'll find that they go together. If manipulation is itself a kind of act, then it's not surprising that narcissists can be very skilled at the kind of stagecraft they think will be perceived as musical expression.
In both narcissists and psychopaths, emotions are felt - they simply lack the ability to relate to the emotions of other people. They still feel sadness, happiness, anger, etc.... Just only relating to themselves.
Since there has yet to be identified a gene (or a microbe) that underlies and completely predicts either of these traits I think they should be regarded merely as words used to describe certain people's behaviour under certain circumstances. These days the fashion is to put everyone in a box with a one-word label - dyslexic, autistic, paedophile etc - and think that describes the whole individual. There is no reason to suppose that "narcissistic" people play the violin, walk the dog, eat their cornflakes "narcissistically".
Well, Hillary Hahn is certainly unemotional. But not because she’s a psychopath/narcissist, Hillary can’t be those since she’s a robot!
Here's another half-remembered nugget from my neuropsychology reading! Prof Antonio Damasio (who I once met in Iowa City) is credited with the idea that "micro-emotions" underlie all our conscious decisions, however apparently trivial. How do we ever decide whether to turn left or right except by imagining both options and doing what at some level "feels better"? That principle can easily be applied to musical performance. As long as spontaneous conscious decision-making plays a part, emotions small or large are involved in every movement of the bow and can be detected by an empathic listener. However, when performance becomes highly automated (such that control is largely delegated from the cerebral cortex to the cerebellum, as is commonly speculated) the player's emotions are relatively unengaged and listener may be left cold. So I'm in a certain disagreement with Roman about this!
I quite agree that naming names is not appropriate here. So I'll just ask if anyone knows whether the President of the United States plays a musical instrument? Somehow I suspect the attention span might not be up to it.
HH is not a robot. She just doesnt waste her energy or mental bandwidth on gyrations or histrionics. I respect that. We have a nice variety of violinists to hear and watch.
Well I think your rewasoning is incomplete:
Yes, they(Place the name of the ruler of your country here) were a conductor for a time.
I tend to agree with the view that there is probably too much generalization involved when classifying people.It can be difficult to say, " Ah Ha!, he's a narcissist".
Everything a bowed-string musician does to make sound involves the movements of both hands. That's it! That's all there is!
On occasions we've all been bored by highly competent performances given by technically accomplished players who seem emotionally disengaged, "on autopilot". They can get away with it (occasionally) because we're never quite sure if the problem is with them or with us. On another occasion the same player might find inspiration and emotionally involve the entire audience. I certainly wouldn't suggest that the possession of an immaculate technique is in any way an obstacle to the communication of emotion, but the player must be constantly aware that something more is needed. Roman believes that "technique is the key", but I think he could agree with me that technique is just the beginning. And that some of the most communicative players have not been the most technically accomplished.
If music is only a product of technique made to look like emotion, then what originated music in the first place?
The acting analogy cropped up in an earlier thread and I think it was mostly agreed that musical performance is indeed to a large degree analogous to acting. A professional soloist or actor doesn't often get the choice of what they want to play or when they want to play it. I suspect therefore their emotions are often present only in a sublimated form which can then be expressed by technical means, tricks if you like.
Charles, I'm saying exactly that. One possibility is that a particular combination of technical tricks might be more easily stored in your brain as "very very sad" or "jolly and happy" or "totally pissed off" or whatever. But when you "feel" that emotion your brain translates that back into the movements of your hands.
I must confess ( or say, or assert, or asseverate, or contend - or something) - that I am very much on the side of those here who think the emotions in a musical performance are very important.
In contrast to Hilary Hahns' method of practice my method is to
I have heard plenty of contemporary performances that are far from boring. The old school vs new school argument doesn't help music, IMHO, and is ultimately a false dichotomy.
One area of music making where there is still a lot of fun, is done purely for enjoyment, and technical accomplishment is not always at the top of the list (although it is respected when it is), is playing in folk music sessions, perhaps in a pub. In the UK this would be Irish, English, Scottish, or Welsh. Recommended. That is how I grew into playing the violin.
Another one would be jazz improvs!
Sylvan -- the violinist who was playing Bach -- did you judge them as less musical based on what you heard? Or on what you saw?
You really can't fake emotion in your playing, no matter how many technical tricks. I can't explain it, but skilled musicians can always tell the difference between someone who's faking it and someone who feels it.
Paul, People always think a busker will make more money playing Czardas. I am not sure that is true, or always true. When I busked a long long time ago, I always wanted some good money for a nice meal and maybe a bit more, but I always thought of the music first , money second. My feeling is I probably made more money that way too.....
Gemma, I have heard some people whom I knew well to be awful people, play beautifully.
Everyone I know has (positive or negative) emotions because we are emotional beings. Narcissistic people are no different, only that their emotions are all about themselves. They can be super articulate in words and manipulative in actions. I don't see why such people can't produce emotional artworks.
Wonderful music can make you cry- wonderfully played, - Mozart can produce a holy hush- like a penumbra of light. I do not believe however everybody is capable of playing music so as to produce/engender these effects.
Mary Ellen, so do I, but we're talking about psychopaths here - there's a difference between a bad person and somebody who is seriously incapable of feeling genuine emotion.
Psychopaths can feel emotions. They just do not understand or care about other people's emotions. And while I am not qualified to make a diagnosis, I have worked with a few artists about whom I would not be surprised to hear that there was one.
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.