Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thoughts about music from conductors [2]

This is part 2 of the series I began here with part 1. . . .

Christian Gansch is another conductor Hilary Hahn interviewed. She asked him,

Q: A very compelling aspect of your profession?

A: Music is both an intellectual and an emotional pursuit, for some people even a fulfillment of a basic human need. It's wonderful to have the opportunity to conduct orchestras and be part of that musical experience – but even if I didn't conduct, I'd still study scores (Beethoven, Bruckner, Ravel, Debussy, or Strauss, or Prokofiev, for example). Music is healing, and it illustrates the soul as if in a mirror of compassionate objectivity. [emphasis mine]

A couple points I would draw from this:

1. Music (and any artistic endeavor) at its best involves more than one part of the human person; it stirs up a complex symphony of intellect, will, and emotion--of head, heart, and guts--of reason, desire, and passion.

2. Great art helps reflect the human soul back to itself--for artist and audience both. Part of the task of becoming more human is to understand the human condition more keenly. For this, one needs to be able to establish a certain distance between the immediacy of one's own most powerful experiences, and reason. In other words, we have to step back a bit from ourselves in order to assess ourselves calmly within our own minds. This might be called "compassionate objectivity." Great art can provide us a privileged view, through the lens of compassionate objectivity, into the deeper mysteries of the human condition.

It seems to me that Christian Gansch's answer supports my thoughts about the importance of an artist not being completely self-absorbed during the creative process. For while an artist immersed only in himself may be engaged in a journey of self-understanding (although I am skeptical of this; I would suggest he cannot do this authentically without conscious reference to the world beyond himself), it is likely that he will have erected a barrier for his art ever to be able to serve as a meaningful catalyst of a similar journey for other people. The language spoken by artist and audience has to have something in common if they are to come together through art in a shared quest for deeper insight.

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