Monday, December 29, 2014

Learning Timing

It was nice to play my cello again, today.  And it was good to be back in the orchestra.  We're preparing a program of arias for the New Year's concert, and these can require a bit of coordination and sense of timing that we haven't quite yet achieved.  Some moments today were a little perplexing and it once again reminded me of what a highly trained skill orchestral playing is.  And what a gift it is to be able to learn another's sense of timing and to work with that.  But with an orchestra, there are so many people, and all of these subjective ways of perceiving the beat and the character and the direction of a phrase can lead to a lot of confusion and ambiguity.  It's difficult to get 15 or 30 people to play a series of slow pizzicato together as the music slows even further; it's a question of trust, of hearing and understanding the phrase in exactly the same way, and any uncertainty can ruin that, any one person can be the one to unsettle it.  Added to this is the (sometimes) tradition of playing behind the conductor.  In most cases we follow the concertmaster, but each concertmaster can interpret a conductor differently.  Because our orchestra gets to work with many different conductors and concertmasters, it means that these variables change a lot and we have the challenge of learning how to communicate for every project.  There's a lot of learning going on, and it's great to be able to see how much development it takes to do it.  I hope the experience can help me when I teach again; and perhaps for my future students and for myself, I might just make more clear the variables that are at work and hope that it can clarify the process.  But as with any at of creation, performance included, there will always be elements of mystery.  May there always be.

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