The most emotive moment in the film "Ratatouille" (Pixar, 2007) is the final scene, in which the antagonist, a restaurant critic, who on top of all things is called "Ego", visits our hero's restaurant to write a review. Of his opinion depends the future of the venue, for through his experience and rigor, Ego has unbelievable influence in the city of Paris.
How do you convince someone who has seen it all?
Upon arrival, Ego orders "a new perspective, fresh, and well seasoned", in other words: carte blanche, and rises his own expectations.
The meal arrives a few minutes later: it's ratatouille, an old and simple people's dish. Visibly irritated through its plainness, he grabs his pen and scribbles furiously into his notepad, eyebrows raised.
Then he tries the fist bite.
Suddenly, we see him transported into his childhood. He's no longer Ego, the critic, instead he's Ego, the child, returning home after a bike accident, tears rolling down his cheeks. His mother understands immediately; she soothes him and gives him a meal that she had prepared with all her love: ratatouille… Then, all of a sudden we see him again, back at the restaurant, transformed, motionless, as if time has stood still.
Shattered, he drops his pen.
For a moment he's unable to react; for a moment he's stunned. Until all at once his eyes shine, he understands what's happening, and tastes the dish again. Oh, that second portion, now he's aware of what he's savoring, he relishes every bite, feasts, nibbles and indulges… until finally he's wiping clean his plate with his finger, saying that he seldomly has the impulse to give his compliments to the chef, but that today he simply has to.
His review, full of humility and emotion, announces a promising career to, in his opinion, "the finest chef in France". A complete success.
Watch the final scene of "Ratatouille" on YouTube in a new window.
Why does Rémy, our protagonist, who is certainly skilled enough to prepare a highly sophisticated dish, decide to cook a simple ratatouille? Because he knows that he can convince Ego only through emotion, because the latter has tasted everything which impresses him. What he hasn't tasted yet is a meal that moves him.
Be the Ratatouille of classical music
It's very similar in our musical world. We live in a time of high expectations and great competition, with an increasing number of applicants for a decreasing number of jobs. How to prevail in this endless sea? How to convince a panel of judges that you're the one they're looking for? How to convince your critics?
The answer is: with your emotion. Because only you feel the Mozart the way you feel it. That's authentic and that interests me. I'm not interested to hear how you can play like your favorite artist. I'm interested in your perspective, in your emotion, in your authenticity.
How does the emotion arrive to the listener's ear?
It's of course easier said than done: "Be authentic and the rest will follow". For you to express your music how you feel it, three factors need to exist.
First, it needs a permission from your part, that you really allow yourself to play how you feel. Second, you need your body to be free, elastic and flexible, so that it can be an instrument of your expression. Third, you need the cooperation of your inner critic (i.e. your thoughts), so that you can put your attention to the sensory impressions, instead of commenting on what is currently happening. You can acquire all three competencies with time and though practice, but the last point, the fact of synchronizing your attention with your sensory awareness, is the most decisive in my eyes.
When these three factors are present, i.e. an inner permission, a body that is an instrument for expression, and the perception of the present, the emotion and aliveness of the moment can flow through your body. Then, the emotion goes out of your body, transmits onto the instrument, transforms into sound waves and ultimately reaches your listener's ear.
Then, you're enjoying your performance; then, instead of reproducing a rehearsed emotion that you have trained for countless hours, you are alive on stage. Then you are there, authentically you.
And that is what moves me.