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Paradox of Integrity

A Minute with Miles

Musicians, like actors, have to deal with something a drama teacher once called the “paradox of integrity.” On the one hand, you have to be completely “in character” when you’re performing—moved yourself by the music in order to make it moving for others, and merged with the music, in a way… almost submerged in it. 

On the other hand, you have to remember where to put your fingers, and not to make the same mistake tonight you made at the rehearsal yesterday morning, and not to rush in the third movement, the way you did in Chicago last week. But is this really a paradox? I don’t think so. I think it’s virtually the definition of human nature, of our ability to manage simultaneous processes and simultaneous levels of awareness. And is it so different from what we do in ordinary conversations? Our thoughts are personal and genuine, but we choose our words consciously and carefully, and even while we’re speaking we’re aware of the effects of our words.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.