reflection III: the nature of music

Insight: The way “group mind” appears in performance is tied to the nature of music.

 

  • Music is immersive: We are immersed in sound and by this quality sound naturally reinforces the performers’ “immersion” in the performance. And though musical conscience (a self-awareness aimed at evaluating and refining the performance in the moment) necessitates a degree of distance, there is an immediacy – being caught up in the moment – whereby the performers and the performance “become one.”
  • Music is rhythmic. Rhythm is bodily. It is also one of the palettes that unifies compositions. Musical group mind is bodily. The shared palette of rhythms unifies the ensemble in a physical way like movement in a group of dancers. Dancers and musicians know what it means to be moved by the music.
    Music is gestural: it’s movement expresses meaning. Interesting that “movement” refers to a section of a longer composition which often coheres by what it is intended to express.
  • Music is temporal: duration Like all human experience, music has duration. From the beating of our mother’s heart in the womb, marking time walking or running or counting our years, in music and in life there is tempo and pulse and measures, beginnings, repeats and endings and beginnings. This is one way music, rooted in our lived existence, taps our common humanity.
  • Music is temporal: in the moment  Musicians are bound by what is probably their single greatest motivation and desire: to be caught up in the moment during a performance, forgetting all else. Clock time ceases to be at issue as metronomic time becomes a brush for painting what is “eternal:” delight, ecstasy, misery, longing, love, beauty etc. Musicians talk about these “peak” or “transcendent” moments as “becoming the music.”
  • Music is emotional. Music is perhaps the most apt vehicle for embodying, conveying and evoking emotions because it is structurally similar to emotion. We are immersed in emotion. We are immersed in sound. Emotions color our perceptions and show themselves through how we see the world around us. Music colors our perception conveying and evoking emotion-laden experience – “painting a world.”   Music and emotions are bodily. They move us in ways specific to their character. Music and emotions ebb and flow, rise and fall over time, marking time, which drags when we are down and flies when we are elated.
    Musical group mind is necessarily emotional and because music is evocative, it awakens the performers’ shared humanity giving them immediate common ground.
  • Music expresses the ineffable: Music expresses what exceed words and especially in its nonverbal aspect is sufficiently open-ended to both unify and leave room for individual differences. What is most important in life exceeds the capacity of words to express. Of what value, then, is music? And what bonds of fellowship does that inspire in ensemble musicians?
  • Music is communal. Music is written by people for people. Its vocabulary (of rhythm, melody, harmony etc.) is relatively prescribed or at least exists in an historical context that is defined by the efforts of others. Ensemble players share enough of a common musical heritage to be able to “speak the same language.” This “mother tongue” binds them. The performance is a shared experience that is both immediate and transitory while tapping and evoking what eternal and universal. The ensemble player must be open to being influenced by what they hear from fellow performers.

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