It's part of human nature to want to be heard, and in today's world it's not that difficult for that to be done. Twitter and Facebook keep us informed about each other's current activities and opinions, as do blogs. Artful expression is also shared over the internet and through live exhibition, not to mention all of the television (and now YouTube) advertisements we have to sit through, all in an effort to be heard. There comes a point, though, when what someone is trying to put across is simply too much!
As you probably know I'm spending the holiday season in Memphis, and living in Memphis means eating a lot and hearing a lot of live music. I love supporting local art, don't get me wrong, but for three nights in a row I felt like I needed to stuff my ears with tissue. On the final night of very loud music (last night) I began to ask myself why I felt this way. As a musician, I would want people to listen to what I have to play for them, just the same as they want their audience to listen to them. I guess it has something to do with my being classical musician (I sound like such a snob haha). One of my favorite things to do in Memphis is to go to the Mollie Fontaine Lounge on Wednesday nights to hear a few of my friends from college play a sort of jazz trio - it's really really great music. I'm not offended at all by their volume, and I think it has something to do with the classical training involved in their development.
Of course, it is completely possible that I'm more interested in talking to my friends than listening to the music often times, but maybe music is actually getting louder - even classical music! Orchestra and Wind Ensemble concerts I've gone to have been pretty loud to my ears, and we live in a society of airplanes and dynamite. What would performances of today's classical music sound like to people who have never heard anything louder than thunder? Back when opera performances were merely side shows to the social event that was opera, did they want the singers to tone it down a bit so that they could talk to each other? It's a fact that playing extra soft (unless you're a clarinet I guess) is more difficult than playing comfortably loud on wind instruments. I would imagine it's similar for string instruments, and maybe even the voice. Busting in the front door angrily is much easier than sneaking in after midnight, right? The list of comparisons goes on forever. Is all of this related? Do we find comfort in things being loud? Who knows...
I hope no one thinks I'm hatin' on anything or anybody - that's why I didn't mention the bands I've heard lately (which all sounded good by the way), but I think our volume is something we need to be aware of. Next time you're hanging out with a group of friends, talk softly and see what happens. See if you can get to your desk at work without anyone knowing. When you open that perfect gift this Christmas, give a response that shows intense, soft excitement, instead of a huge scream.
...or not, because I have Rihanna turned all the way up right now. haha
Listening to: Only Girl in the World
In the spring of 2010 David Maslanka's "Traveler" changed the dynamic of the University of Memphis Wind Ensemble, as well as the attitudes of many of its players - myself included. It's a piece I still listen to, and it reminds of so much of what has happened in my life over the past several months. Moving to Los Angeles and going to USC is the most drastic thing I've ever done, and now that I'm a whole semester in (or out, depending on how you look at it), it's really something for me to go back and think about everything that has led me to where I am right now.
"Traveler" opens very dramatically, with loud brass fanfares and frantic woodwind flourishes. That's exactly how my travels began - frantically. From packing what I thought I needed to getting rid of things I couldn't fit, it was a fight to the finish, so to speak. It was all fueled by excitement, though, as is the opening to Maslanka's piece. Once everything was packed and ready to go, Andy and I got on the road and began our 33 hour journey across the country.
The next part of the piece, to my ears, is very exclamatory in the way it paints the mental picture, and this takes me back to driving across Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and the desserts of eastern California, taking in the beauty (and often times the harshness) of the country we live in. As a side, I think everyone should drive across the country - it puts into perspective the place you live and makes you feel very small. Before the recapitulation of the opening theme, "Traveler" becomes very frantic and panicked, and this is how I felt when we finally got to Los Angeles. There was so much to do, including getting situated in my new place, hunting down a rental deposit on an apartment that fell through (which is a battle I'm still fighting), and preparing for my new career as a graduate student.
Things slowly began to calm down, as they do in "Traveler", and the first half of the piece ends with ruckus percussion and affects in the winds, followed by the very slow, sad, and reminiscent second half. This runs exactly parallel with my dropping Andy off at the airport to go back home. Up until that point we had done everything together, and the drive back to my apartment from the airport was the saddest thing I'd ever done. For the first time in my life I felt completely alone. The thing I was so excited about and had worked so hard to achieve, at that moment, appeared to be the last thing I wanted.
That feeling was the overriding dynamic of the first part of the semester here. In the placement auditions I did well, and was assigned principal in "The Rite of Spring", as well as being placed in the top woodwind quintet. I was told that I should audition for an opening in the pre-professional orchestra here (AYS), did it, and won a spot. Connections were made and I have had the opportunity to gig across the city of Los Angeles, and southern California. I even began to slowly meet people, make friends, and be more social. The members of the bassoon studio here are great, and that helped a bunch, too. It's without a doubt that coming here was a great idea, but it's interesting how the journey to a place really does affect an outcome - an end being justified by the means. When I completed my jury yesterday and read the comments, followed by the "A" grade I earned, it was sort of a melancholic feeling of completion. I'm so grateful for everything I've been blessed with, but like "Traveler", everything big and exciting has led to a somber, reminiscent ending. I'm looking forward to my future success and challenges, but I am most excited to go back to Memphis and re-live quiet comfort for a few weeks. Take some time today and listen to Maslanka's "Traveler" and think about how it applies to a large event in your life.
I love poetry, haikus specifically, and this one is a good one for today:
Stories always tell
of the one who wanders, then
returns home, like me.