Sunday, June 01, 2008

Chamber Caffeine

I still have this romanticized idea of chamber music being intellectually intimate. It's this vaulted idea that you get passionate musicians with physical skill and musical ideas, goals and philosophies to match. You put them together and they ignite each other and you have this great collaboration that, gives you the pyrotechnics of musical fireworks. Many things appeal to me about doctoral work: continued progress on the instrument and its repertoire, the power of knowledge, the research and publication. But the aspect of it that really makes me grin is the idea of being in a pool of people and finding ones to get together and get that spark going, that energy, that very essence of inspiration that begins any music worth a damn.

Curiously enough I have no idea why I feel that way. There hasn't been much to prove that the ideal really exists - hardly anything to even scratch out a decent faith in the unknown, a sense of the adventurer discovering the undiscovered country. I've had the occasional pleasant chamber music experience, but for the most part they have been wrought with troubles. Let's just list a few: personality clashes, badly mediated differences of musical opinion, when you actually do get along personally and musically with someone, having the difficult task of correcting and being corrected without offending anyone. The most talented group of musicians I've played with thought of themselves as soloists, so despite technique, it was just about the worst chamber music experience.

The professional quartets seem to have a particular kind of work philosophy - much like any solo repertoire they tend to step back and allow the cerebral side as much space as the emotive side - and the results are beautiful. There's a calm dedication to being a professional quartet, setting aside a rehearsal schedule, a certain kind of organization. Calm professionalism, planned cooperation. I know that it's this which produces the best of music, and the best in musicians.

But despite knowing better, that's not my ideal. I think teaching or perhaps even research will eventually be a stronger dominating force in my path, and that kind of zen will be a necessitated ingredient in the recipe. But I want some element of chamber music that knowingly and unwisely abandons calm. Let's get some musicians together. And let's gladly let those notes explode, live on the edge and on adrenaline and on the promise of today, yesterday forgotten, and tomorrow be tomorrow. It's not the main course. It's not dessert. It's my strongest expresso, shoot me with caffeine and keep it coming.

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