Friday, March 16, 2012


Most people will not win an orchestra job that can totally support them financially. Some people keep trying regardless of how many years they have been attempting it.

A great mentor of mine said; "it's not what you do, it's the reason why you do it". So a person might have strong personal reasons why they need to keep on trying for 'the job'.

An orchestra job is a particular type of job that is governed by the fashion of playing currently in vogue. People are very easily impressed by 'perfect' rhythm, pitch and accuracy. Put a 'beautiful' tone on top of that sprinkled with the 'appropriate' amount of the condiments of dynamics and style, and you will stand out as a gem. An excellent key on the orchestral keyboard. Not an easy task to accomplish! It takes a TON of hard work, determination and talent to achieve that kind of standard.

Here is the big BUT; not everyone can take their playing and push it into that narrow space of expression and tone. This is more of the case with brass and woodwind players. It seems that strings are 'allowed' to have a big spectrum in general including in the orchestra while winds and especially brass, need to be more conservative. Is this the 'correct' role and function of each section? Maybe….BUT!

Perhaps those of us who cannot just have our whole soul based in that realm will eventually break free of that prison and form new groups and orchestras. Certainly a lot of the music written now calls for a very extreme dynamic and expression range. At the same time, the criteria for getting into an orchestra now and playing mostly the 'classics', calls for even tighter control over the emotions and technique. ( I don't think this was the original intention of the composers and has worsened due to the digital era of virtual reality). A very interesting comparison. Perhaps the 'new' music of today is getting very tired of that narrow box and the orchestral- classical- box is getting frightened and is clinging more than ever to its proper, clean and good mannered playing. It is clinging for it's dear life so much so that it is choking itself to death. We will see what evolves in this unfolding drama of music in the future. The future is actually here now.

This post was inspired by a couple of things. One strong influence was seeing my son Ben's new music group called "Holographic" last week in Bloomington Indiana. Ben is co-founder of the group and conducted several of the pieces. The compositions were outstanding, the musicians were terrific and Ben's conducting was superb. What was truly catching about the evening, was that I had never heard these pieces before. I was 'free' to hear them without prior comparisons or preconceived ideas of 'how' it should go. It was very invigorating. Maybe the 'classics' need a fresh approach that is connected to the SPIRIT of the music instead of a very overly studied and stifled rendition. I think 'classical' musicians need to loosen up a bit frankly.


1 comment:

Scott Bean said...

Great post, Norman! Thank you for your insight!