Who's right?

When I was a student, I admit to often being confused by what was going on around me.  Without going into detail, I was left scratching my head at where ideas (presented by teachers, be they musical or otherwise) supposedly "ended".  Every answer just left me with more questions.  It turns out that's not such a bad way to be.  I recently saw a posting on facebook saying (and I'm paraphrasing here)  "Curiosity is the surest sign of intelligence.  Those who say they know are inevitably the dumbest ones around."  I agree.  With a curious mindset, just about all music becomes endlessly fascinating.  But first, one has to give up "knowing".  There is a famous story of two symphony musicians chatting after a performance of Beethoven's Emperor Piano Concerto with the first musician saying "That was the worst performance of that piece I've ever heard!", and the second one saying "Really? I thought that was the best performance I've ever heard!"


Who's right?


In the last 40 years we've seen the dismantling of "knowing" in the classical music world.  It began, some say, with Nigel Kennedy's recording of the Vivaldi Four Seasons.  Others point to an even earlier recording by Sigiswald Kuijken.  I don't think we can know where it started, but the fact that it has happened reflects a growth spurt in the artist of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Instead of accepting that "this is how you play Beethoven", or "this is how to play Bach", the artist has once again become part of the creative process.  Creatively aware of their own presence as they serve the great composers. 


Having said that, each artistic hub has its own set of values.  Some value cleanliness (ie, excellent intonation and cleanliness of articulation), strength of sound (ie, loud, never weak) etc.  Other artistic hubs may think of those issues as secondary to the abstract artistic/musical message of the composer (eg, if the gesture of the music is honest and sincere, then if its a little out of tune, one can be forgiven).   One only needs look to those in positions of authority at major arts organizations to see what any given artistic culture truly values.  Those values will be embodied by those in leadership positons - or else they'll be turfed!


So then, what to do when values/cultues/ideas/musical identities intersect? One person who has spoken about this quite a lot over the past years is Yo-Yo Ma.  I attach something from him in a link below, but in a nutshell he states what many of us believe.  With the right attitude (curiosity, from my perspective), points of cultural intersection can lead to new culture, new ideas, greater community strength and ultimately a greater sense of global community.  All that done WITHOUT sacrificing one's own voice. 


So in a few weeks, come to SweetWater and see some musical worlds intersect.  Early music of the 17th and 18th centuries, classical music of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, jazz of the 20th century, and a brand new work of the 21st century!  Its all here, and all capable of co-existing and collaborating in new and fantastic ways.  Join us!!



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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Sibylle Ruppert (Friday, 11 March 2016)

    this is such an inspiring thought; as a violin maker I am always in danger of having to know,until I experience the opposite of the"right"constellation in work and play...