Damiana Equinox Fragments
This morning I heard a concert by Duo Damiana, flutist Molly Barth and Dieter Hennings. Here are a few of the things that went through my mind while they were playing.
1. I think “classical music” is not a style but a strategy. I think music is not a thing, but a type of situation. I think classical music is a quiet room. I think classical music is whenever you’re there to listen. In this sense any music can be a classical music, if it’s approached in the right way. I think most people disagree with me on this. I think for most people “classical music” is a thing, a set thing, one that implies a degree of historical reference. I think it implies for them a willing suspension of historical and geographical position. Dieter casually mentioned the basis of one of his pieces in a quotation from a piece Jean-Philippe Rameau wrote in 1724. No one batted an eye at this, here in Albuquerque in 2016, which is actually amazing when you think about it. I’ve been listening to Kendrick Lamar all month. That music is dense with reference, too, but never does he ask the sort of displacement that in “classical music” is an assumption of entering the concert hall. I’ve had teachers who were convinced they could once again live in 1890s Vienna, if only the next election goes well. Kendrick Lamar’s music is, for me anyway, a classical music.
2. Playing quiet music well requires a healthy relationship with silence.
3. Morton Feldman, discussing his adolescent piano study, described a teacher who encouraged in him “a vibrant musicality rather than musicianship.” This semantic distinction is worth lingering over. The root of “musicianship” is “musician.” It’s a quality of the person up on stage who is supposed to impress you. That’s why you paid $15 to be here. The root of “musicality” is just “music.” It is not a quality of that person up there; it is a quality of the situation, a situation in which you are a vital participant, not a mere observer. That is why you paid $15 to be here. When Dieter introduced a piece by telling us, first of all, that the composer is a Professor at _____ School of Music, he was presenting evidence of musicianship. But the moment he started playing, it was clear he was really attaining to musicality. The notes were not ink-splotches on a page; they were pure sonic information. Musicianship is quantitative, left-brain, the stuff on your business card. Musicality is qualitative, right-brain, emergent, the stuff in the air.
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• Crossroad Blues