Or, perhaps it might re-occur right here in Berlin!
Whatever ends up happening, it was a pleasure to take part in something that was produced and created by creative minds, and turned into a successful reality. That was something I learned from this production that I want to keep in mind for the future - when you have a dream, there is almost always a way to make it into a reality. This show was created based on the goodwill and talent of artists who dedicated a part of their time and energy into making this a reality, and thanks to that talent and time, the end result wasn't simply a slip-shod performance that "could have been great, if it had a bigger budget". Instead, this was a finished project - something that you would have imagined had a big budget - that was done on a shoestring. And that is how a lot of artists today are creating some of their best work.
- begin rant -
There was a time in musical history where recordings had not been invented yet, which lasted all the way up until home sound systems were turned into sound marvels, where in order to hear good music one had to get out of their home and either pay an entrance fee somewhere to watch a performance or hire musicians to come to their home or venue. This was perhaps not so convenient as having a CD library or, in more recent times, a subscription to Spotify, but it was the way that people could go listen to music.
Today, obviously, that's not necessary. While CD's and personal sound systems have made it so that anyone, in almost every economic position, can listen to some music on demand, they have also drastically reduced the need for live musicians. A few good recording artists and a lot of great sound engineers can manufacture recordings of all the best music. In fact, it has more or less been done in the classical world. There are now multiple definitive recordings of all of the Western Classical style hits, such as Beethoven and Mahler symphonies, and Mozart pieces of all kinds, and even sonatas by Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart and more. There are wonderful interpretations of Bach's music, all of it, and huge groups of people have been brought together to make chill-inducingly wonderful recordings of works such as Beethoven's 9th and Bach's B minor Mass, among many others. The pieces which used to be rarely performed because they required full orchestras and extra instruments along with double choirs are now available in six or seven top recordings, in a store near you.
By "top" I really mean that these six or seven are definitive for their genre. These are with the best of the best musicians. There are another easy dozen recordings of B and C level musicians performing these same works, not to belittle them. I'm just trying to say that for an easy 20-30 bucks, anyone can listen to Beethoven's 5th symphony as many times as they'd like, in dozens of different interpretations, from the comfort of their living room.
So what does this mean for performing artists? In Western Classical music, much of what's been written and loved has been recorded. Many times over. Maybe too many times over. CD companies create compilations... Best of Bach, Magnificent Mozart, Tremendous Tchaikovsky, Sensual Schumann... well... some of those are real... but the point is that these compilations offer the same pieces as the CD that boasts Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, though usually with an orchestra of lower caliber. So we've got it all, and we've got lots of it. If it doesn't sell, it is repackaged and resold anyway, so that the recording companies continue to make some sort of a profit and clueless consumers continue purchasing items they could own a better version of.
Performing artists get the shortest stick in all of this. Fewer of us are required for making music than ever before, just when we've made the level of musicianship shoot up, and the number of musicians in the world has probably never been higher. But the fact of the matter remains that no rich "bourgeois" is going to hire an orchestra simply to listen to a Mozart symphony. They have a great recording and a fantastic sound system. They'll hire an orchestra for a benefit, a party, or for some sort of event, but that's not nearly as often as every few weeks. Chamber musicians, such as quartets and quintets, would often be hired on a semi-permanent basis in homes of upper-class citizens. They're small enough that they're affordable and can easily be brought into any room of the house. Just like having a sound system, but live! There's no room for that now, though. Why bother spending a few hundred on a live quartet, when you can buy a CD (or download from the internet) and spend less than 50?
So, a bunch of possible jobs for musicians are obliterated by CD's and pre-recorded material. But this also reduced the number of people who would go and watch an orchestra concert. There's the recent complaint of the last few decades too - that concert halls are now stuffy and boring and generally no fun to sit in. They might be right. But half the reason is that the concert halls are still catering to those people who find some value in listening to live music - the generation that grew up without the uber-convenience of Spotify and YouTube. The entrance ticket to a concert hall is generally around the price of a CD of the same performance, except you get to listen to the CD ad libitum.
The thing is, live music is still exciting. We forget, and maybe if you go to a mediocre orchestra concert in a stuffy uncomfortable concert hall, you won't be convinced either. But when you attend something that is exciting, such as Yannick Nezet-Sequin's first performances with the Philadelphia Orchestra that I went to which were electrifyingly intense and moving, or Exposure Berlin which was fascinating in its own, very different, way, you can be reminded of the excitement of live music. Even as a professional musician, you can still be taken to another realm through a performance you attend. Sometimes the hardest step is just to get out the door, though. And that's where CD's and Spotify win, except that you never feel the music in quite the same way. Or perhaps you only ever feel it in one way on a recording, but a live performance is different every time.
By the way - going to watch classical symphonies is still not everyone's favorite cup of tea. But I went to see Radiohead a few weeks ago, and loved it. Why? Because Radiohead was making music on stage still, and because there were a bunch of people there happy to pay a 60 Euro entrance price as well as the mandatory purchase of liquids on the premises in order to watch them perform. People are moaning and groaning to go watch the Philly orchestra at $8 for a student ticket, or $25 for a regular entrance. If you hate Beethoven, don't go watch it. But do try going to see a rendition of Holst's "The Planets", or go to an opera by a modern composer. Or Mahler. Modern Western classical music is moving away from Mozart and Beethoven and finding new paths, and while the 20th century was perhaps a bit too much into "pushing the envelope", the 21st century composers are really finding the balance between new and exciting and too weird.
- end rant -
The other exciting moment of the last few weeks includes a wonderful ink work by Stellazurea, a French artist, singer, and equestrian. It is to be my logo and will be showing its face elsewhere in my website and associated pages. Keep an eye out for it!
This week I didn't have any new videos to post, as I've been primarily working on the Exposure Berlin music. There is a short video of some bits and pieces from the show on my Videos page, however, if you want to check it out.
What's next on the horizon, then? I have some performances coming up with Enda Gallery in November, but for the end of October it will be a little quiet time to myself, practicing and getting some time to do composing and arranging. Perhaps the next post will be about a new piece!