Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cleaning (Orchestral Appreciation)

There are few things as satisfying as a really clean refrigerator.  Actually, that's not true.  There are many, many more things far more satisfying.  A truly clean refrigerator is certainly a joy, but far more so than this is playing Brahms, or Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations.  And I get to play both, along with other wonderful pieces on this quickly rehearsed program.  Everyone has to think and apply quickly in order to get these two very large programs up to speed in just two and a half days, about a quarter of the rehearsal time we would normally have for this much music.  And it's refreshing and exciting.  Music is so incredible.  It seems somewhat tragic that I was exposed to the possibility of a life with it.  And now I can't give it up, even though I imagine my efforts towards this seemingly futile and unprofitable pursuit would probably be better absorbed if directed towards environmental action or social work.  Or I could I could play the stock market.

But there is something perfect about it.  Like nature there is no good or bad.  It simply is.   I'm not trying to solve a problem of humanity, but I feel as though I am engaging in it.  It is an act of perfecting, of trying, of learning, of rearranging, of learning about oneself and reflecting on any number of aspects that comprise the practice of "music."  It is a life-long pursuit.  I continue to grow in it.

And so now it seems very scary to say goodbye to it and not have something to jump into on the other side.  Scary enough that it is motivating, scary enough that I appreciate even this thrown-together project.  I appreciate my colleagues in this orchestra, I will miss them.  I appreciate being able to make sound with so many people.  I remember the first rehearsal we had in the large hall playing Dvorak 9.  I remember the sound of the brass overtaking me.  There are some things that can't be done alone.

I have the impression, from personal accounts and statistics, that being an orchestral musicians is one of the most unsatisfying jobs one can have.  And after these three years, I can understand why.  It takes so much skill, and you have so little voice or individual input.  You become the puppet of a conductor.  He takes your skill and uses it.  Good conductors know how to alleviate this and empower musicians from the podium, but in the end, it is a dictatorship and a hierarchy, one that isn't always perfect.  Happiness in this orchestral world is means to hand over control and obey, to desire to blend in perfectly.  But at the same time, it is such a wonderful thing to do.  When you are truly with your stand partner, living in the exact same time together; when you can sing vicariously through all the voices of the orchestra, and play with them, giving to them as much of yourself as you can; when you can live the lives of others through their music, breathing meaning into the harmonies and counterpoints they composed hundreds of years ago, there is a connection to humanity that rivals any other humanistic work, as tempting as it might be.

As much as it has at times been a struggle to make orchestral playing my life, I will miss it terribly until the next time.  I don't think it can be a life by itself for me, but I have become so attached to it in these past three years that I can't imagine not continuing to pursue it.  And so now a jump.  Memories sustain me.

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