Monday, July 25, 2011

Ensemble - The Art of Making Music Together

Something we've been exploring over at Google + is using the group video conferencing ability ("Hangouts") to try to make music together. Yesterday was our first, trial run.

As one might imagine, it was not without its difficulties. Lag can turn the simplest four part hymn into a Ligeti-esque work of sound painting. Still, the process was not without its own sort of satisfaction.

What the experience reminded me of, however, is how important the shared music making experience can be. Even if the musical product created isn't the highest quality - maybe it's a bit ragged, maybe it is laggy - there is still something fulfilling about coming together to sing or play.

As a professional musician, that sense of music-making-for-the-sake-of-music sometimes seems to get lost in the demands of the career, itself. It's understandable, but also a bit sad. As may be obvious by now, I'm a firm believer in the joy of music-making. If that isn't there, the product, however fine it may be technically, is incomplete.

This chance to come together with musicians I might not otherwise have ever met or collaborated with was a nice reminder that (thanks to technology), we have more ways than ever to connect, to experience the joy of music together.

It was nicely symbolic, too, that what ended up working the best for our first online music-making venture was a 16th century tune from the Genevan Psalter -- a hymn book originally written (at the directive of John Calvin) to allow the congregants the opportunity to participate in group music-making as a part of the liturgy.  Fitting, then, that Old 100th should be a successful inaugural run for a new tradition of group music making

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Wondering Minstrel, I

Well. It's been awhile, hasn't it? This bovine got caught up in the particulars of going back to school. Sadly, whilst I spent most of my time writing about music, there was no space left for writing here. But now!


If there's one thing I did bring back from my dip into the educational pool, it was reinforcement of how important it is to keep and/or cultivate a sense of wonder into what we (as musicians, music educators, music critics) do. Music has so much power, particularly to help children develop as thoughtful, creative, expressive adults. But once it has become a bludgeoning stick of "You must listen to this! You must practice that!" - it loses much of that power.

This is not, of course, advocating a lack of discipline, completely free-form noise, or any such nonsense. It's merely that whilst we're practicing, whilst we're rehearsing, whilst we're teaching, whilst we're performing -- we need to remember that music is magic. The prosaic has its place, but step back and just enjoy it!


I shall be attempting to see and review Brook's stripped down version of Magic Flute this coming week. I'm looking forward to seeing what he's done with the piece, particularly as it's an opera so frequently subjected to the depredation of tacky sets, horrible costumes, and schlocky directing...