Friday, September 25, 2009

Thoughts about music from conductors [3]

This is part 3 of the series I began here with part 1 and here with part 2 . . . .

A third conductor Hilary Hahn interviewed was Grant Cooper. She asked him,

HH: What kept you with it?

GC: I think that comes back to communication. I really find that we musicians communicate on so many different levels (one-on-one, in larger ensembles with other musicians, with the public, etc.) and in so many different ways: unspoken, mysteriously even, and through shared experiences.

Two points to be drawn from this:

1. There are at least three different levels of communication that a musician might experience while performing. First, if there are only two musicians, communicating with only one other artist. Second, if there are more than two musicians, communicating with a collective of other artists (which is different than interacting with only one). And third, communicating with the audience. Each level of communication goes in both directions. Note, only two of these levels may take place simultaneously (for the first and second cannot happen together by definition).

2. There are a variety of ways in which interactions among fellow performers and between performers and audience happen. Many are non-verbal, mysterious, spiritual, subtle and yet powerful, deeply human, almost telepathic. It is almost as though one were wordlessly passing momentary impressions and emotions back-and-forth to each other, one heart directly to another. As the feeling is passed and becomes shared it gains additional qualities. A poignant and deeply human moment is first privately alive in one's self, then comes to life among a communion of persons. These "moments" happen briefly, like a succession of waves rushing upon a beach. Some are small and delicate, others large and strong. And when things are going especially well and the muse of music visits, there is a sense within those who are most plugged-in to the shared experience that they are somehow, both "in time" and "beyond time."

I think it may be the case that the above points apply more to music than to other art forms. For music, uniquely, is a living art form. It moves dynamically through time, even though it can be represented statically in the form of ink on paper. Music is not fully itself unless being performed. And as it is performed, it is alive. Like a human life, it cannot be captured in or reduced to a single point in time.

By sharing the reality of a musical performance we are given a means to experience communion with each other in a way that is both meaningful and unique; and hopefully it may also be revelatory, insight-bestowing, and wisdom-enriching--in a word, humanizing.

[For more on similar themes see my comments and the videos of Hilary Hahn in two earlier posts here and here.]

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