Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Naked Cellist

Today the Arrowhead Trio returned to Hans Gal, born near Vienna in 1890. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Gal was dismissed as Director of the Conservatory in Mainz, Germany and all of his works were banned. He returned to Vienna, only to be forced to flee when Hitler annexed Austria. He settled in Edinburgh, where he died in 1987.

We're preparing for a concert in Lynchburg on September 26, where three trios will play trios. Each trio is expected to play three selections. Our three are the three movements of a Hans Gal trio (unless we change our minds).

Today we scrambled into this music, our brains searching for patterns in motives and melodies and rhythms, sort of like trying to catch ringneck snakes in a poorly lighted Arrowhead Lodge. Ah, here's one, grab it and hold on. There's another. Each time through, each time we stopped and struggled over a few bars, again and again, the pieces stuck together better.

As with learning in general, the ultimate task will be getting to know this piece well enough to explain it to others. If we don't understand it, we can't explain it. If we think we know it and can't explain it, then we don't really understand it.

We must find a way to make this "modern" twentieth century music interesting to a first-time listener. As musicians, that is the explaining we must do. We need to play it so folks hearing it for the first time don't turn off and go wandering away into minds-ville. We want to catch their interest and take it along as the music twists and turns. We need to figure out how to do this with music many people won't consider singable after one hearing.

"How about playing like Charlotte Moorman?" Virginia suggests.

No chance. Ms. Moorman (1933-1991) was a cellist arrested for indecent exposure and given a suspended sentence after she performed Nam June Paik's Opera Sextronique.

1 comment:

  1. If the music isn't enjoyable to a first time listener maybe you shouldn't be performing it, or maybe you should perform it naked and no one will care how it sounds. At least a cellist has an instrument to hide his nakedness.