Monthly Archives: July 2012


Anticipation and performance pacing


The video above of Reggie Watts at TED is almost 10 minutes long, and I’m going to ask you to watch it twice. Twice, because it deserves to be watched the first time with wonder and pleasure, without analysis.

The second time because I think this performance is a spectacular example of stage presence, pacing, and the manipulation of audience anticipation.

Watts spends almost the first full minute speaking in languages that he must assume the majority of his English-speaking audience doesn’t understand. I, watching, spent that entire minute in a state of sharpened attention, wondering what was coming next.

Minute two he spends slowly, getting his audience warmed up and feeling connected. We develop a sense of his rhythm as a performer. It’s not until about 3:40 that he settles in and gets down to business. That’s when things become suddenly very technical and layered. It’s impressive. But imagine if he’d start right off the bat with that, with a cold audience.

Often new dance performers worry about the time spent standing in the wings while the music plays, letting the audience’s anticipation build. The time spent walking around the stage, greeting the audience and doing a few hip drops during a set’s opening number. But really – by the time Watts pulls out the stops at 3:40, he has us on the edge of our seats, in the palm of his hand.

There are additional parallels to a well-done dance set. No one piece is too long. The middle section of his performance is once again slower-paced, and rich with repetition and variation on a theme. He uses dramatic pauses to good effect. His finale is high-energy and leaves his audience wanting more. Then he takes his time to bow appreciatively to his audience without rushing off the stage.

There’s no question that pacing a performance this way requires confidence and faith, two things that come with experience. But allow yourself to move in this direction as you develop as a performer, and eventually you, too, will hold your audience in the palm of your hand.


Instruments in Turkish music


Since I reference these instruments when talking to my students, I thought it might be a good idea to put up a quick guide to the instruments you’ll hear most often in Turkish music.

A fretless lute with a big, bowl-shaped body. The most common type of lute heard in oriental music.

A violin.

A goblet shaped drum played with the hands. Known in Arabic as a doumbek or tabla.

A clarinet.

A stringed instrument related to the dulcimer and zither. The strings are plucked with the fingers.

A frame drum.

Zilli tef
A tambourine. (“Zilli” = with cymbals, so literally a frame drum with cymbals.)

A two headed drum hung on a cord worn around the neck and played with sticks. Very common in Roman music, probably due to its portability.

These names are often used interchangeably. They are lutes with smaller bodies than the oud, used in central Anatolian folk music and classical Ottoman music.

A reed flute.

A stringed instrument that looks much like a banjo. They were developed in Istanbul in the 1930s as a cheaper alternative to the oud.

An ancestor of the oboe, with a strong, whining sound. Associated with mehter (military) music.

Wooden spoons. Played in southern Turkey, often while dancing.

Cymbals. Generally refers to finger cymbals. “Ziller” is simply the plural of “Zil”.