I fall asleep in concerts, I admit it. At the end of a long day, in a comfortable seat, lights dimming, beautiful music assailing my ears…what do they expect? I’m not ashamed by this – I’m as human as the next person snoring beside me. We’re not bored, we’re simply responding to the event in a different way. So when I’m standing onstage, looking out into the audience (yes, we can see many of you, despite the lights shining in our eyes) and I see someone taking abnormally long blinks, I don’t resent it. I’m reminded that we come to the concert hall in different mental and physical states, and more importantly, we come for different reasons, all of which are valid.
It’s curious though -when I’m on stage, I forget my physical condition entirely. (Ever seen a conductor cough during a symphony, let alone nod off?) When I’m on the podium, I’m at maximum focus and engagement. It can’t be helped, as a participant: in the very least, it’s our job, and our duty towards our public; at best, it’s our overwhelming passion and conviction, to communicate through live sound.
The blessing and the curse of music is that the experience of it cannot be described in prose… for obvious reasons. It just has to be felt, the sensation has to be encountered directly. There’s no doubt in my mind that the fastest way to advocate for our craft and all that it promises would be to place instruments in the hands of decision makers, be they public, private or corporate, and give them a taste of what it is to make music with friends and colleagues. Even to stand in front of a drum and feel the immense satisfaction of thumping out a groove along with seven or eight others, after just 10 minutes of instruction, would suffice. Our art is the best marketing and advocacy tool that we have, and we have to capitalize on every opportunity, passive or active.
And for me, the next opportunity is next Wednesday, February 3rd, when I present Brahms Symphony No. 1 at Pollack Hall, McGill University, in Montreal (555 Sherbrooke St. W.) Since the performance (Starting at 7:30) is within the narrow, if not perverse, confines of academia, I will be compelled to speak for 35 minutes beforehand on the nature of interpretation, particularly in terms of choices of tempo in the symphony. All are invited. And if you fall asleep, I’ll smile and be grateful that you came.