Posted by Sophie | Posted in 'Philosophy', Music | Posted on 04-02-2010
Tags: cello, expression, idealism, illusion, indonesia, perfection, performance, plato, recording
For me and many others, one of the main and eternal aspirations of a musician is to break down the physical and mental barriers to genuine expression. Last night, listening to my friends perform as I’m often lucky enough to do, I had a thought as to what one of these mental barriers might be.
When we play music, we have in our head a concept of the performance we want to create. To put this roughly in terms of Platonic idealism, we have a concept of the ‘ideal’ form of a piece which we then strive to reproduce in our material world of change. But too often I think live performance remains only a faint shadow of our ideal interpretation, because the latter plays in our mind in sync with and more loudly than the sounds we actually produce. And this is why listening back to our own recordings can be so illuminating and so disappointing; suddenly we’re stripped of the comfort blanket that is the illusion that we’re doing justice to our sound concept, and we’re left naked with only the inferior product of this concept in the externally audible world.
So, aims for the next time I pick up my cello: 1. Turn down the volume or even hit pause on the ‘ideal’ performance in my head in order to truly listen to the living sound. 2. Be reassured that, in music, there are infinite versions of the ideal (so a work of music, as a concept abstract in the material world, can’t strictly exist in Plato’s world of ideas anyway). 3. Play loudly enough to be heard in Indonesia; surely one culture will find my tuning ‘system’ ideal.