Multiple requests on this topic have lead me to provide a brief outline for the concepts I am proposing as I continue to write about Performance Design: here’s a basic outline:

  • It can be boiled down to a simple prescription for a change in mentality in the minds of performers: 
  • A performer does not perform. A performer creates performances.

It follows that a performance is a created object (be it sound, visual, theatric, or some hybrid).  That act of creation can be broken down into three parts:

  • Design
  • Preparation
  • Execution

Three Components of creating a performance (in reverse chronological order): 

Performance Execution

  • This the actual public act before an audience, what the public colloquially just calls the performance.

Performance Preparation

  • Individual Practice
  • Ensemble Rehearsal

Performance Design

  • I want to talk about how to structure ones thinking around every other aspect prior to the concert.
  • (Performance Preparation begins after Performance Design Begins, but Preparation can influence Design just as early rehearsals for a premiere can influence a composer before the final published version.)

What is it?

  • Working glossary entry:
  • “Performance Design: An interdiscipline which examines and prescribes the tools and methods for designing a performance. Includes those tools under the traditional rubric of “interpretation” (examining manuscripts, historical studies, structural analysis) but also includes music perception fields (music cognition, information theory and neuroscience), programming, venue selection, and marketing.”

I would boil it all down to this idea:

  • A performer in 2014 is equipped with advanced technical training in their instrument or voice (or dance or theater) but generally lacks the tools to holistically design a performance. 

It’s kind of like the Apple philosophy:

  • I want to equip performers to design the “whole widget”.

Jordan Randall Smith is the Music Director of Symphony Number One.