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The Reflective Conservatoire: Building Connections
An International Conference
28 February - 3 March 2009

Venue: Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Barbican, London

Nick Barwick
Performance Blocks: some psychoanalytic perspectives
Tuesday 3rd March

Performance Blocks: some psychoanalytic perspectives

Many musicians, student and professional alike, struggle to master aspects of performance which seem curiously resistant, impervious even, to the best efforts of both teacher and student. Debilitating performance anxiety is one such example. But there are other, often more idiosyncratic problems too. These might appear to be purely technical – a problem, for example, with projection – or they might appear to be rooted in intangibles – a failure, say, despite technical dexterity, to communicate certain emotions or to ‘reach’/’move’ an audience.

This paper focuses on student experience of ‘performance inhibition’ – be that performance ‘proper’ (for example, in front of a traditional audience) or ‘preparatory’ (for example, in the presence of their teacher or – ‘alone’ in the practice room – of their own scrutiny). Data includes transcriptions of semi-structured interviews undertaken with research participants (all Guildhall School students) over a two-year period, focusing on the subject of ‘performance inhibition’, together with completed questionnaires and informal written submissions. A portion of this transcribed data was submitted to a process of interpretative phenomenological analysis. Insights gained from data and analytical method, as well as the limitations of both, led the researcher to draw on a wider (and ‘deeper’) body of data in the form of clinical process and supervisory notes arising from psychoanalytic work undertaken with music students in the context of the School’s Counselling Service. Data from both transcriptions and clinical work (the latter undertaken over a period of more than ten years), was then subjected to psychoanalytic scrutiny.

Generalising from such data in terms of identifying a cluster of causes for a range of performance inhibitions is both tempting and problematic. Nevertheless, this paper will suggest some such general conclusions considered worthy of further scrutiny. More importantly, it will suggest that performance difficulties experienced by musicians in their struggle to develop as performers, have meaning and that, under psychoanalytic scrutiny, these meanings can often become accessible not only to the researcher, but to the participant. In being party to such meaning-making, as experience begins to take plausible narrative shape, students often begin to feel less the victims of ‘outrageous fortune’ -  isolated, impotent, despairing -  and more the (unwitting) agents of their own inhibitions. Further, though the meanings unravelled may indicate the need for further psychological work, the performance inhibition itself, no longer having to bear the sole (uncomprehended) weight of deeper psychological struggles, is often significantly relieved.

For full programme visit: www.gsmd.ac.uk


Are you an experienced therapeutic practitioner? Are you looking for an opportunity for serious continuing professional development? Are you interested in how the personal and professional inextricably entwine? Are you interested in exploring such issues in the context of a learning community that combines sustainable continuity with manageable commitment? If so, a group analytically oriented CPD group specifically designed for experienced practitioners, might be for you.

More information is available by clicking on the links below. You will, however, need Adobe reader. If you do not already have this, you can download it, free of charge, by clicking here.

This group is planned to start in early 2009. Applications are now invited.


The Psychodynamics of Writing:
Mad Desire and Feverish Melancholy

Presentation/Workshop led by
Nick Barwick
Group Analyst, UKCP registered Psychotherapist, Counsellor in HE,
Managing Editor of Psychodynamic Practice

At the invitation of Group Analysis North and the Institute of Group Analysis (Glasgow), Nick will be presenting and running workshops in both Manchester and Glasgow on the psychodynamics of writing on the following dates:

Friday, February 13th 2009 (10.00 – 4.00)
Group Analysis North (Manchester)

Saturday, March 28th 2009 (9.30 – 4.30)
Institute of Group Analysis (Glasgow)

Whether academic, student, clinician or trainee, this presentation/workshop is aimed at providing a space for writers to reflect upon some of the dynamic issues involved in producing academic/clinical writing – our desires, anxieties, inhibitions, ‘essay symptoms'. There will be an opportunity to explore what hinders the commencement, development, revision and completion of our writing and, most importantly, what might facilitate these things.

Nick Barwick is a group analyst and UKCP registered psychotherapist. He has a background in teaching as well as therapy.  With long experience of working both pedagogically and therapeutically within a range of educational settings, much of his present clinical work is with actors and musicians. He has a particular interest in working with artists, including writers, experiencing ‘creative blocks’. A writer and musician himself, he is also the managing editor of the journal Psychodynamic Practice (www.psychodynamicpractice.net)

All enquiries can be made either to:

Bethan Marreiros, Group Analysis North,
78 Manchester Road, Swinton, Manchester M27 5FG
Tel: 0161 728 1633 enquiries@groupanalysisnorth.com
Sharon Hannah, Glasgow Courses Convenor
Carswell House, 5/6 Oakley Terrace, Dennistoun, Glasgow G31 2HX
tel 0141 232 0100 or 07905759044

Cost: Approximately £30.00. However, this may vary slightly according to venue and membership.