Sunday, November 30, 2014

Farewell to Thee!

The semester is coming to a close faster than ever before. Time has truly flown by; so much to do, so much to practice, so much to think about. This class, in particular, has given me many reasons to stop and think. I’d like to thank Isaiah and every class member for their unique insights in discussions throughout the course. It’s been a pleasure to hear what all of you have to say on this subject of the future of classical music--needless to say, a uniting subject for a group of conservatory students.

There are two central concepts this course has caused to mull over in more depth than ever before. The first is how I relate to music as a performer, and why. So many of my concerns and opinions about how performers should make interpretive choices were brought to light. If composers are humans, too, then why are performers all but obsessed with recreating the exact intentions of the composer? I think it’s more rewarding and admirable to play the interpretation you believe in than to be a slave to the urtext (and unless the composer explicitly released an edition of a work, declaring, “these are my final markings,” how do we actually know a marking is urtext-worthy?) Composers are to be respected, of course, but where does the place of interpreter land in the hierarchy of musicians? Well, seemingly nowhere, which I think is quite unjust. Interpretation is a skill of its own. No amount of markings on a page can really express the true character of a piece, and it’s the interpreter’s job to make something human out of a piece of music. Humanity is what makes people listen. Reading about and discussing the concept of a reception-based approach to thinking about music--where the roles are flip-flopped, and musicians should actually care about how our art will be received by the public--helped me to better understand my own opinions, in a sense.

Hand-in-hand with the idea of a reception-based approach to music is that we, as musicians, have allowed our audiences to be alienated. By not caring about what they want to hear, and allowing them to feel unfit for the task of understanding classical music, we have driven away the most important group of people in music: the very people we need to listen to us. It’s every musician’s responsibility to care about his or her audience and be welcoming to anyone who wants to listen. I have more faith than ever that neither our audiences or our music are the problem. It’s how we choose to share it. It’s time to stop underestimating audiences and start welcoming them, so we can show them they know more about music than they think they do.

I leave this class feeling more empowered and inspired as an artist. Every day, every concert, every piece, every phrase, and every note is an opportunity to help someone feel something they did not know they could feel. Maybe, if I succeed, they will return to the concert hall some other time.

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