This past Thursday, I went to a performance at the Kaplan Penthouse of visiting German musicians presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The program closed with a piece for two cellos by Thomas Demenga, performed with his brother Patrick, that was an extended rumination on the cello: what is it; what sounds can it make; why must it be played thus? There was an 11-note chromatic jazz line, allusions to birds in an Australian rainforest, fingers on the cello body, bowing on the peg, audible breathing that forced me to be aware of the human agency in performing the music, cellos turned sideways and played like dulcimers...
On the insistence of Mike Walker, I finally watched Somm. The pressure! The heartbreak! Oh, the lovely, luscious, enigmatic wines they tasted!
A friend of mine recently posted an article on facebook that claimed personality in performance was dead. He bemoaned (like Bernstein's complaint that competition is for racehorses) the prevailing expectation of technical flawlessness in favor of risk-taking.
Dissertation research leads us down unexpected, lonely, and obtuse paths, and I find myself wanting to crawl out of my cave with every brilliant turn of phrase that I come across to share its beauty (Simba-style) with the rest of the world.
Mr. Lyon would practice in the mornings before school started, locked in his office away from the chaos of the students. Most days he would just work on a single note, playing it over and over and over while kids made fun of him for not playing anything else. I was struck by his ability to focus so intently, because when I tried the same thing at home, even without the noise of teenagers to block out, I couldn't be as consistent as he was. He was maybe too quiet and introspective to be the high school band director some kids expected, but he was certainly an example of what it was to be a musician.
On some level, I suppose that music making is for me a selfish activity. Of course, it necessitates giving -- giving the best of my energy, my focus, and my desires to a sound that can be shared with other people. Talking about music or teaching music are similarly giving activities that I find great joy in throwing myself into. Yet, this very giving makes me feel drained and invigorated simultaneously, in a word, alive, perhaps in a way that no one else in the room gets to experience at that moment.
The sensations of music making are intense: hearing the sounds around me from my instrument, my colleagues, and the audience; watching intently and creating momentary visual lassos to other players in the ensemble; being aware and yet not-aware of the temperature of the room, the folds of my clothing, the smooth curve of my flute; tasting every note as the air resonates in my chest, my throat, and my face before it leaves my body -- all these sensations are made more real, more meaningful, and more beautiful in an intense musical moment, and it is their very realness that is so life-affirming.
1) Those sunglasses. BEAUTIFUL.
2) He takes a piece in 3/4 and puts it in 4. AMAZING.
3) Those sunglasses, so much SWAG.
4) The white guy in the audience in the beginning clapping on 1 and 3. He may be square, but he clearly is enjoying the spirit of the music.
5) So much JOY in life, America, and aesthetic beauty.
I'm making my first ever blog post (on a site devoted to the sounds I make, no less) about the absence of sound: silence.