One great pleasure that I have during the High Holy Days is playing Kol Nidre for the Yom Kippur eve service. Every year my experience is different: some years I think of the experience as a very personal one, and I "use" the piece as a way of working out my various feelings connected with the text of the prayer, which basically involves the chance to relinquish "resolutions" made in one year in order to clean the figurative slate for making new vows for the coming year. Often some of my greatest misgivings come from not having practiced enough viola to make my rendition of the Kol Nidre as good as I would like it to be. I always vow to play it better the next year.
This year I thought less about myself (though I was certainly self-critical to a point), and I thought more about my audience. Not my audience upstairs, as it were, but my audience of congregants who have come to depend on listening to the Kol Nidre as a way of helping to release them from their vows. It is a great responsibility to play in a way that allows other people to feel. It also involves an interesting dance between various parts of the "self." If I include too much of my own emotional "stuff," I make the playing of the piece too much about me. There is no room for anyone else in the emotional space because it is all taken up by me. If I do not include enough of my own emotional "stuff," the playing is not engaging enough to welcome people in. Their minds wander, and the whole purpose of the prayer (even without the words) is lost. It is a very complicated balance.
This relationship with the audience certainly extends itself into all areas of performance, whether religious, non religious (though, for those who would say their religion is music, there is no non-religious musical space), public, or private. Playing for people is a way of letting them into the music. By extension, writing music for musicians is a way of letting them into the music--allowing them to have a vehicle to use in order to express themselves, and, in turn, when they play it for people, to allow them to feel. No matter how you look at it (or listen to it) there is a great deal of responsibility involved with all parts of the musical continuum.