Sunday, July 28, 2013

On Listening

Very few of us sit at the top of our vocations or avocations. We may envy the few who do, but imagine how tough that must be. Fail to stay current, take a break from practicing, and the fall can be immediate. Having lost top place, it may be impossible to recover.

The rest cluster underneath. 

Take music, for example. The top performers tend to be geniuses with talents we the people cannot comprehend. Charisma plus marvelous marketing make them “unbeatable.”

The next level lacks something, if only the marketing that tends to focus on the top.

Each pond has its big fish, from countries to regions to states to counties to towns.

Then we come to the parlor, where at the beginning of the previous century, someone could do at least a little bit with an upright piano and the rest could sing. Most music happened there or in the yard or woods...or even here.

Recordings changed everything, providing everywhere-access to “perfect” performances. Almost everyone became a critic. “He was good, but no Rubinstein.”

In our area, the Krantzes are famous for their twice-per-year music megaparties. Folks (everyone is invited) gather in their music room, where three grand pianos, over a hundred seats, 360-degree views of the Appalachians, and complete openness invite music-making. A couple months before the next party, the host and hostess invite people to sign up for 10-, 15- or 20-minute performance slots, first-come, first-served.

The lack of discretion makes these parties unique. Anyone can perform. Anyone does. Natural selection does or does not take its course.

“I suppose this results in some very bad performances,” says Virginia. “On the other hand, I’d bet it frees some who might otherwise be reluctant and yields some very fine sets?”

That’s the point, I think. It attempts to release attendees from definitions like “good” and “bad,” to allow them to view music in different, more generous ways. To be “fun” and “funny,” and at the same time “serious” and “grave.”

“Ah, maybe even to see some music as the hoax it is?” says Virginia.

Yes. Even the stuffed-shirt might leave a bit tickled, realizing that each level of music-making is golden.