Sunday, July 24, 2005

music, time, and monumental cerebella

Today marks the end of my first three weeks at the Kent Blossom Music Festival, which continues for another three weeks. It's been a good time so far, meeting a lot of musicians and finding new ways to stretch myself musically.

Maybe the best thing about it has been getting to hear the Cleveland Orchestra. Last night, they played Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, conducted by James Gaffigan, my classmate at New England Conservatory (Jimmy played bassoon on my senior recital, performing the quintet arrangement of Strauss' Till Eulenspiegel!) I have a whole history with Shosti 5 as well - it was the piece that first made me fall in love with the orchestra, and all the colors and sonorities it can produce, back when I was 15 and played it at the Marrowstone Music Festival in Port Townsend, Washington.

It's been a long time since then, and my enthusiasm for the piece may have faded, but hearing it last night transported me back to my first discovery. As well as I thought I knew the piece, this performance brought so much I'd forgotten into brilliant relief - the plangency of the wind chorale in the third movement, the unbearably insistent strings in the finale. The orchestra played wonderfully, and Jimmy impressed me once again as a talented and inspiring musician.

Being at Kent State, surrounded by a lot of younger musicians, has brought back a lot of my memories of music school days - even back to my first real summer music festival, when I was 17 and went to Bard College in upstate New York for the American Russian Youth Orchestra. I was the youngest person there, and I remember being inspired and somewhat intimidated by all those older musicians - listening to them talk knowledgeably about pieces and musicians I'd never heard of, appraise the conducting in harsh but undoubtedly justified ways (I didn't even know what an ictus was, much less whether the maestro lacked one), and go out drinking. Where did the last 10 years go, that I've come full circle except now I'm the old one? It makes me think of that aria from the first act Der Rosenkavalier:

Time is a strange thing.
While one is living one's life away, it is
absolutely nothing.
Then, suddenly,
one is aware of nothing else.
One of my favorite places on the campus of Kent State is this huge sculpture of a brain in front of the university auditorium. It sits on a pedestal in front of these walls sculpted into shelves full of books - you can just make out the end of one of the bookshelves in the picture below. Also, strange tentacle-looking things are carved into the ground, as though the brain had its own nervous system that was grasping to suck all the knowledge out of those books.

Kent State, inspiring the leaders and mad scientists of tomorrow Posted by Picasa

In the next few weeks we have a lot more performances - as an orchestra as well as in chamber music. Probably my biggest challenge of the summer is Schoenberg's first Chamber Symphony, op. 9, a piece for 15 musicians which sounds like Richard Strauss on amphetamines. It's incredibly fast and virtuosic for all the players, and it's a lot of fun to put together and perform - hopefully to listen to as well!

1 comment:

morgan said...

yes! I love the brain!