Friday, April 27, 2007


Cutting through the clutter and experiencing the present moment fully is part of our job requirements as performing musicians. In a world equally full of attractions and distractions, I think of this as something we're uniquely able to offer people - two hours of focused, impassioned contemplation. Still, we're not immune from distractions ourselves, including the tendency to multitask. Even as I write this blog entry, I am also eating dinner, listening to a recording, getting dressed for a concert, and teaching a lesson. Use more bow! Oops, not you.

The other day in a rehearsal MTT even caught himself doing it - he was conducting a complex section of Petrouchka, featuring a prominent flute solo, and meanwhile making comments and adjusting balances in the previous section. Once he recognized everyone's confusion, he quickly stopped the orchestra, made the correction, and told us, "I'm sorry, I think I'm multi-tasking when actually I'm just being rude!"

I think this is usually the case when we multitask: we think we're being extra productive and generous with ourselves, when actually we are just short-changing one or all of the activities we're engaged in. And ultimately we are short-changing ourselves, because none of those tasks gets as much attention as it deserves. Conducting might seem to require a certain amount of multi-tasking, with all those parts to listen to, people to cue, adjustments to make - and yet it is amazing how an orchestra responds to someone who is fully and deeply engaged in listening and being part of the music-making. There are musicians who you can just watch in the act of listening - how intent they are, how responsive - and already you're inspired to play your best. MTT is one of those, and our soloist this weekend Christian Tetzlaff is another.

I'm wondering how people will deal with the pressures of multi-tasking during this Sunday's live New World Symphony webcast. It's one thing to ignore distractions in the concert hall, the occasional unsilenced cell phone, noisy wrapper-removing, etc. But listening on your computer I imagine as a blizzard of distractions, e-mail, pop-ups, alerts and dialogues. Hopefully our online audiences won't take it upon themselves to also cook dinner, teach a lesson, and redesign their Facebook profiles at the same time, as I am right now.

Anyway, have a great weekend everyone, and try not to do too much! What's that, I didn't mean to write on your wall - how much garlic was that? - who's poking me? - use less bow! Oops, not you.

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