Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Day 4

So, having somewhat recovered from my self-indulgent whining of last night, it was another eventful day in New York. Meetings with Professor Michael Beckerman from NYU on how to listen to music (however you want) and with Henry Fogel of the American Symphony orchestra league (by the way - there is no crisis in classical music - just grand difficulties).

In an attempt to not bore you with the many details of the day, two particular statements stick in my mind.

The first was made by my fellow institute-ee Chloe Veltman. In the middle of our discussion of how to listen to music, we came to the inevitable problem of the importance of the score. Now, having been bombarded with arguments about the shifting nature of reality and the temporal nature of music, I am resistant to any authority given to a scrap of paper. Chloe compared a score to a blueprint, and at the time I disagreed. But reflecting further, it's an apt analogy.

A blueprint gives enough direction so that the object you're building won't fall down. But it doesn't tell you what paint to put on the walls, or how to arrange your furniture. It's only the barest of structures - ceiling, walls, floor - that keep everything together. The rest is up to you.

Secondly, as part of an incredible visit to Carnegie Hall, we had the opportunity to meet with Clive Gillinson, the executive director. While his insights on the nature of the hall were interesting, though not as much as the archivist Gino Francesconi who is engaging and brilliant, there was one thing he said that struck home.

He was a cellist before stepping up to manage the London Symphony Orchestra. Someone asked how difficult it was to switch from being a creative artist to being an administrator. He replied that being an orchestral player is less of being an artist, and more of an artisan. The conductor is the one with the vision, with creative control. The players need to be disciplined and follow direction, or they aren't doing their job.

It is so true, and explains some of my own frustration with playing in that situation. I could never see the joy in it other than the sheer power of a ensemble of that size. I was one of many, I followed direction, but couldn't take any inititive, never was heard in either sound or voice. I was creating music, but not being creative. It's an incredibly important job, and one that suits some temperaments, but it cannot be compared to the role of a individual artist.

A final word on Carnegie hall. I'd never been there before, and had a vague idea of what the place looked like from pictures and movies. But that can't capture the feeling of walking into that majestic space and feeling the sound of a rehearsing orchestra fill the hall. It is beautiful in it's simplicity, brilliant in it's design, and just a holy place of music. We head there for Steve Reich's 70th birthday party concert satuday, and I am tingly with anticipation.

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