Sound Unseen

Part of the mesmerizing effect of live music is that the sound can't be seen. It is invisible! And the movements that produce the sound seem at once so easy to imitate and utterly impossible. (Think of air-guitar, or pretending to play the violin.) 

To compound the fascination, most people see a printed page of music as a series of mysterious and unintelligible hieroglyphs. This applies as much to the two-hands of a piano piece as to a full orchestral score, with its 20 or more lines happening simultaneously. (How could anyone possibly wrap their heads around that?!)

In front of the orchestra stands the conductor, who like an enigmatic conjurer waves their hands while 100 musicians create vast and sensuous cathedrals of sound. There are no seductive costumes, light shows, or back-up dancers. There is only the sound.

I once read that Brahms (who died in 1897, around 120 years ago) would recognize a concert at Carnegie Hall as almost identical to those he attended in Vienna. In other words, orchestral concerts have not changed in a century though technology has unstoppably whirred through global industrialization, the motor vehicle, air travel, space travel, television, the cell-phone, and the internet. 

I go back and forth with myself to untangle this conundrum: why has live orchestral music not changed (when almost everything else has)? I think of possible innovations to the concert experience, I try to invent new ways of presenting this music, including multi-media and lighting. But I always come back to just the sound. The sound unseen.

If you know how to listen, this music speaks for itself. So the answer is simple: help people to listen differently! Which is the very reason for this here blog...

Kirsten Hicks