I, like you, have spent most of my life watching professional musicians make faces while they play. As a teen, I didn't think too much about it because things in my own life were plenty intense and it was all about me anyway. As I got bit older and more cynical I started to wonder how much of the whole thing was an act. Then I read that book... This Is Your Brain On Music. Awesome. Opened my mind to the possibility that some artists are actually feeling something profound.
My own facial expressions while playing have been of intense concentration or grimaces as I've hit wrong notes. What do I expect, I suck. But recently, I had some quiet time so I laid down a 4 chord organ sequence, added a bass, looped the thing and strapped on the guitar to just make some noise.
Over the next couple of hours, I played and I played. At some point I crossed over. My face was a glow. I felt electric. To paraphrase Winnie the Pooh, I felt "tingly in my jingly". It was the closest thing to rapture that I have felt in any remotely recent memory. For a full ten minutes after I put the guitar down, I had a stupid post-coital grin on my face. It was almost embarrassing!
It was good. It was scary. I'm not entirely sure about letting go in this way. I want to go back. But I'm afraid. Makes no sense. Makes no sense at all.
CC licensed photo by Heart Industry.