"You just had to BE there!" When words fall short to describe the experience, that's often what we say. How much more so when we're talking about classical music!
As the least tangible of the arts, music is truly gestalt. In a concert situation, it's all about the present! It's happening; the art is happening right then, right there, right now. As each note is played, it lasts only for its indicated length, and then it's gone...never to be heard quite the same way again.
When I practice, I like to strive to never play any one note the same way twice. Each and every note that appears in the score has its own raison d'etre...a special purpose that only it can fulfill. Each and every note has a unique relationship with its neighbors; those nestled beside it in the melody, and those supporting and surrounding it in the harmony. It's my job to discover the nature of those myriad relationships. My purpose is to give every note the life its composer imagined for it. That being said, how I understand the composer's intent is always going to be colored by my own mood, my own ideas, my own experiences. If I'm really able to be true to myself, I'll be in touch with all of that while remaining fully present in each musical moment. My moods, ideas, and experiences are always changing...and that's why my playing is always changing. Finally, when I have practiced sufficiently to feel I'm in some sort of meaningful communication with my composer, I have the awesome privilege to share that communication with yet another someone...my duo partner, Paul.
As musicians, Paul and I each spend hundreds of hours practicing in solitude. When the music starts to emerge and come alive, my experience is that it just longs to be heard by another set of ears. This is why it's always so exciting for Paul and me when we first start rehearsing a new program. It's the first time either of us have had the opportunity to share what's been happening in our respective practice rooms for all those many hours. Rehearsals present us with an altogether new experience of the music. Synergy emerges in all its glory. Because our pieces are so thinly scored, each of us has the opportunirty to express our own artistic experience of the music with a great deal of freedom. This new, three way conversation between composer, flutist and classical guitarist adds a whole new dimension that we discover and develop together at this stage. But while our rehearsals can be very musically satisfying, it's simply not meant to stop there.
The whole of any chamber music piece is far more lovely and profound than the mere sum of its parts. What audiences rarely realize is that they become an integral part of the musical experience specifically by virtue of their presence in the concert hall as listeners. Make no mistake...as performers, we are deeply tuned in to your energy at that moment in that space. There is a feedback loop of sorts that comes into play in the concert hall, creating a four way communication between the composer, each of us and you! The more of you that are present to listen, the more communication there is going on...yet, miraculously, while everyone hears and relates to the music a little bit differently, creating many kinds of "conversations," what ultimately emerges is a harmonious experience...a rich consonance that binds us all together in that time in that space. We care if you listen because you enhance our experience of the music, making it continuously fresh. We believe that for the listener, an audio recording serves merely as a reminder of the gestalt of the live concert. And when we record, we have to do so without benefit of your input!
Just two weeks ago, it was announced that scientists had at last beheld actual evidence of a gravitational wave, the existence of which had been predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity. This evidence has rocked the physics world, and is likely the most significant discovery in astronomy since E=mc2. This evidence was NOT visual...it was HEARD across the vastness of the Universe. In writing about this, Michael Daly of The Daily Beast wrote, "The cosmos are more fully heard than seen; sound tells you more than sight; the listener, not the beholder, is supreme." I think he makes a great case for the importance of listening to classical music! Ultimately, we can all be connected to one another, and to the Universe in all its vastness, in those moments of time spent together in the sacred space of the concert hall.