Sit down. Please don’t be mad, okay? But… I’m taking September off.
Yes, all of it. AB is almost four years old and in that time the longest vacation I’ve taken has been two weeks. In 2010. So – it’s time to refresh! Recover! Re-evaluate! Rejuvenate! Renew! Other words that begin with re-!
The concert season is only just beginning; make sure you check out the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and Strathmore websites to keep abreast of the latest concerts and events.
If you’re feeling bereft without me (and who wouldn’t?) you’ve got almost four years of archives to investigate!
Or you could listen to this playlist over and over. It’s practically the same as hanging out with me.
I’m not at Walt Disney World, which frankly confuses me. How does one vacation outside of a Disney park? Wait, you mean vacations are supposed to be relaxing? And spreadsheet-free? I don’t… I don’t know how to respond to this…
Well, if loving WDW is wrong, I don’t want to be right, clearly. But I’m giving this whole “Myrtle Beach” thing a shot. I’m really not sure how I’ll handle not having a schedule, but… I get to wear my Esther Williams swimsuits while searching the horizon for shark fins with a heart full of hope, so I guess that’s something? I might even tweet about it!
Anyway, in the spirit of the whole “chill vacation” thing (so you’re saying you’re supposed to chill on vacation? Interesting…) I won’t be keeping up with this blog at all this week. Instead, I’ve scheduled for your viewing pleasure a bunch of videos to keep you occupied in my no doubt agonizing absence. They’re just as good, if not better, I assure you.
To kick things off, here’s a video Medalist of Violar Rebekah sent me recently, accompanied with the title comment as well as other gems like “Maybe this is what the audience felt when hearing The Rite of Spring for the first time” and “I can’t watch it again. It’s too frightening.” Helluva great endorsement, no?
But seriously… are you even allowed to vacation outside of a Disney park? This doesn’t seem right… See you tomorrow for more video fun!
Seriously, you have NO IDEA how much time I have spent in my life sitting in the driveway, waiting to find out if I’ve guessed the composer right. (Answer: probably not.)
Every single music teacher I have ever had, from third grade orchestra to tri-county symphonic orchestra, has given the exact same speech before a concert. Oh, I don’t mean the exact same entirely; there are riffs and variations based on the pieces played, and the state of them in rehearsal. But they always throw this one out:
Don’t worry about making mistakes – no one in the audience will know if you mess up!
I understand that they are not try to claim that, should the first chair bassist crunch his bow into the strings and make a distressingly low screeching sound in the middle of a pianissimo violin solo, no one will know the difference. What they are saying is that, should we botch a minor tempo or get a little out of sync, the audience is unlikely to notice, because what do they know from classical music?
This reassurance has never, ever, ever worked for me, and here’s why: 99% of the time, my mother was in that audience. AND SHE KNEW. She is a classical music aficionado and, were the violas off or our allegros a little too allegro, SHE KNEW. And she would tell me afterward. As in, “That bit was wrong.”
Which was fine, actually – it made for for honest feedback, which I much prefer to blind praise. And anyway, it made those times when she was impressed much more meaningful. However, it also rendered the pre-gig rallying cry of the conductor completely pointless.
A couple weeks ago, when we talked about phoning it in, it was mentioned that one of the reasons that’s such a bad idea is because there is always someone in the audience who knows. Doesn’t matter where you go.
School band and orchestra directors, this applies to you too! And so I make this recommendation to you: find a new trope. You’ve definitely got the right idea, attempting to give your musicians a pre-concert boost, but hit us with something true. There is someone in the audience who KNOWS.
Incidentally – music directors of all types, tell me! What do you say to your ensemble before you go on?
Have I mentioned this before? I can’t remember. Anyway, in high school I had a violin teacher who gave me a big ol’ lecture about how I was far too staid in my performing style. He wanted drama! He wanted me to stamp my foot and toss my head and wave my violin around in the air. None of this was remotely within my personality, but he insisted it was vital to giving a good performance, not only to engage to the listener’s visual senses, but also to enhance my own visceral feel for the music.
I can only assume that this particular speech is popular among music teachers, because I see so many performers positively flailing on stage, or engaging in completely unnecessary histrionics. I once saw a pianist who began every piece by lifting her shoulders, throwing back her head, taking what was clearly a VERY VERY DEEP BREATH, raising her hands hiiiiiiiiiiigh over the keyboard, AAAAAAAND… hunching over the piano as she began to play. By the beginning of the third piece I wanted to put her in a straitjacket.
At least she was a soloist. I find it particularly distressing when members of an orchestra wave their arms around like they’re seizing. I once pissed off Hannu Lintu by expressing my displeasure with his particularly physical conducting style. I realize the conductor heads the orchestra, but that doesn’t mean he should distract from it. And oh Lord, does the principle violinist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra drive me nuts sometimes. He, too, is of the sway-and-swoon school of music performance, and I DO NOT LIKE IT.
Okay, sometimes I DO like it. I adore Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg largely because of her stomps and forceful pulls of the bow across the strings, in a fight she’s winning. But here, I think, is the difference: her antics have always struck me as an expression of fun. She is enjoying herself up there. By contrast, the vast majority of the theatrics I’ve witnessed seem to communicate little more than what a seeeeeerious undertaking the musician has taken on. Oh, music is SO HARD and I must THROW MYSELF INTO IT because I just feel so much DRAMA. My soul is in PAIN, damn it, PAIN, and I want you to know!
Oh, shut it. You love what you do. If you’re dealing with a particularly twiddly bit, a frown of concentration will do it, thanks. This is not about you. This is about the music. And if it’s causing you such emotional angst, maybe you should see a therapist.
So, whaddya think? Do you agree that musicians tend to heavily toward theatrics when they play? Or am I totally off base here? Certainly there are exceptions to every rule – tell me about them!
Oh, hey! Do you watch Downton Abbey? I do! Is your favorite character Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess? Mine is! And I recently convinced my mother to watch it too, the end result being that she is now just as obsessed with the show and loves Maggie Smith just as much as I do.
As such, it took FAR too long for it to occur to me to share with her the trailer for Quartet, a Maggie Smith movie wherein she plays a former opera singer who goes to live in a retirement home specifically for musicians. It came out way back in January, but as my mom discovered it still playing in one of our area independent theaters, I figured it might not be too late to show it to you, too.
Has anyone seen it? What did you think?
Also – Billy Connolly! Remember this?
THIS isn’t Walt Disney World.
Do you know where I was yesterday? Walt Disney World.
This real world is dark and cold and unfriendly and I DON’T LIKE IT.
And in honor of my sadness, my bitterness, my loneliness, my desolation, here’s a sad and bitter video from the esteemed Louis CK.
(Don’t worry; I’ll be posting a photo roundup like usual! From Walt Disney World. Where I currently am not. SIGH.)
I know, I know; this isn’t the Composer Cagematch! you expected. Suck it up, kid, you can wait until next week – this is WAY better. For me, anyway. Have you guessed yet? I left you clues on Twitter all week and in the post yesterday! Anyone? Anyone?
But this trip comes with a SUPER DUPER EXCITING twist – I’m running the WDW Princess Half Marathon! This is my first ever half marathon, and sure to be the most picturesque; I’ll be running AROUND CINDERELLA’S CASTLE and THROUGH EPCOT! Take that, other half marathons of the world! It’s going to be AWESOME.
My last full 13.1 mile practice run clocked 2:26 and they give you 3:30 to finish, so I’m feeling good about grabbing that finisher’s medal. If you’re curious about my times, I’ve set it up so that my split times will be posted to Twitter. Feel free to cheer me on, as I’ll have my iPhone and may even be able to check Twitter while I go! The race starts Sunday morning around 6AM in the Florida dark. Where, incidentally, there are supposed to be highs in the 80s. AHAHAHAHA, WINTER IN THE MIDATLANTIC! YOU’LL NEVER GET ME ALIVE!
Anyway – as always, I’ll be Tweeting through my entire trip, with special attention paid to musical experiences, of which there are invariably lots. From Broadway-style shows to street musicians to simple background music, Disney invariably delivers, often even on the classical front. So follow me now – you won’t want to miss it!
I leave tomorrow mid-morning and return laaaate Sunday night, so your next regularly scheduled post will be coming atcha on Monday morning. Fear not, however; I’m not abandoning you quite yet. I’ll post your Concert Roundup for the week this afternoon, as I’d hate for you to miss a perfectly good concert while I’M AT WALT DISNEY WORLD YESSSSSSSSSSS!
Ahem. Right. Yes. Meet you back here in a bit. Carry on!
This post is largely utilitarian in nature and addresses the following topics:
If you need help, FB has a page on the topic, or you can comment here and I’ll walk you through it as best I can.
Right then. Carry on!
A long time ago, while generating ideas for blog posts, it occurred to me that it might be good to write about what makes each art different. And then I thought, no, that’s stupid – what makes each art different is that it’s a completely different art. Obviously. But there was something I was trying to get at there beyond the superficial differences, and last week I figured out what it was.
I was at a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert, the one with the Rachmaninoff. I’m not even a huge Rachmaninoff fan, being raised to look upon him with a suspicious eye, but all the same. Garrick Ohlsson was playing these beautiful chords, and the orchestra was unspooling its notes gently behind him, and I thought to myself – there are places classical music can go that nothing else can. There are things classical music can express that nothing else can. Classical music can do things that nothing else can do.
And then I thought, okay, classical music snob, if that’s the case, why do you listen to so much indie rock? Hmmm? Missy? If classical music is so darn transcendental, what do you need with a bunch of clever lyrics and a bass line?
Good question, good question. And that’s when it hit me about the cracks in the universe.
Let’s say the universe is riddled with crevices, filled with emotions and truths. There are crevices only classical music can ever hope to enter, and facts about life that only classical music could ever hope to dig out. And inside those little holes there are bits that only Rachmaninoff himself can get to, next to the divots solely Beethoven could ever hope to go. The better the composer, the better the music, the more and deeper the cracks, of course, but there it is. That’s why we need classical music, to go the places only it can.
But! There are other cracks, that indie rock can access. The same – dare I say it – for pop music, with its bounce and feel-good fun. And then cracks that a painting can pick at where music could never hope to fit. Cracks just for dance, cracks just for actors. We need them all if we can ever hope to explore as much of the universe as we can. If we let any one of them die we lose our avenue to its portion of life.
So that’s what I think about during a concert, in case you were ever wondering. Cracks in the universe. Maybe I read too much Heinlein.*
* This is impossible.