Not only that, I have TWO shows with Enda Gallery this weekend - one on Friday at Soupanova (8:30pm, 5 Euro cover) and a gig on Saturday as well, at 7pm at Artliners as part of their open stage. You can check the Soupanova show out on my Facebook page too - a little more information about the current Enda Gallery collective!
Today I am going to upload the last movement of the Shostakovich cello sonata, which I should say a few words about. But first - here it is:
Such is life!
Though perhaps not in the sense of creepy, I've realized just how much I have been living a life with very different-looking facets. My classical training comes from a world deeply entrenched in tradition, formality, and perfection. I spent six years in my undergraduate and graduate programs seeking to achieve a perfect rendition, with perfect intonation and perfect dynamic and tempo arcs - you name it, it had to be perfect. Classical music moves us because of its fine filigree, its delicate balance, that house of glass that it is. Much like a massive cathedral, it has to hold itself up as a functional building, but also be host to the large statues, the small icons, the writings, the carvings, the alcoves... in short, the whole building, the whole piece, has to hold together on every level.
Actually, most music that is "good" music tends to have these sorts of macro and micro ideas - not just classical. Its just that unlike most "pop" music of today (including rock, hip hop, etc. - any 3-9 min piece of music that is not classical or folk) classical music tends to be on a larger scale, and at the very same time, on a much more microscopic scale as well. It's not the fault of "pop" music artists (as I will refer to all of those categories), but rather the result of a much shorter history of pop music making - what created the classical style as we know it was hundreds of years of tinkering and tampering and composers outdoing each other (and themselves). Much of our popular music today comes from styles that emerged within the last 100 years or so.
With that side note - I find myself now going from that classical training I had in the USA with my bachelor and master's degrees, and entering into a world of pop music, full time. I had played with Steve Goldberg and the Arch Enemies while in Philly, and that was a great experience, but it was me dipping my toes in the water to see how it was to be a non-classical musician. It is in fact a whole different world of musicians and jobs and opportunities.
Here, working with Enda Gallery, I find myself suddenly 90% a pop musician, simply because I don't have a current classical music job. It is a weird feeling, honestly, but it is an interesting experience. I am learning a host of things about the non-classical music world, what people consider "practicing" and "jamming", what improvisation can and could be, a crash course in cheap consumer electronics (microphones and small speakers and amps), and even the way that musicians and venue owners interact. In classical music, all of this is very formalized - musicians in groups have a designated leader most of the time, and that leader takes care of everything one way or another. If we're hired, we make demands on the hall that must be fulfilled and we rarely bring much more than our instruments, music, and a music stand. An orchestra musician has little to do with the organization of the orchestra beyond his/her role as a player and section member. That's what the conductor and orchestra managers are for. Soloists still use agents because it is a losing battle to get possible concerts and venues for performances.
Well in this pop world, everybody has to do everything. It has happened in the classical world now that musicians are increasingly asked to do things for themselves - where 20 years ago any classical musician of good standing had a booking agent, many of them now take on these sorts of tasks themselves. In the pop world, most musicians can't dream of having an agent until they "make it". And by then all they really need is someone to answer too many phone calls, pieces of mail (or email), and help them make sure all their gear gets to the right places at the right times. Of course, their agents also help them get more gigs, but the task is much facilitated already. Not only that, there are thousands of new potential venues for concerts being created. Because there's a popular demand for music, there are bars, cafes, and dedicated performance spaces who are just looking for a great pop-style music act to play every busy night of the week. Its a matter of being a bold musician/self-booking agent in this world.
Auditions in the pop world are more personal - people like each other's "style" instead of in the classical world where people like the style that is currently considered "good", for the most part. Recently, Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands won a gold medal in the Olympics because he came up with a brilliant new way of performing the same jumps and twists on the high bar - he did a bunch of them in a row. And he awed the audiences and the judges with his new take on something that all gymnasts learn how to do. In the classical world, that's very difficult to do. Even a very good new interpretation is often discarded simply because it is "different" from the norm. Not only that, the "norm" can vary wildly from region to region and country to country. Some regions or countries will "claim" a piece of music and abolish all other styles of playing that piece except the one that they are used to. The music becomes an interesting historical artifact, and of course it doesn't lose its luster, but it certainly isn't that brand spanking new performance Epke Zonderland did.
In the pop world, and this is exemplified here in Berlin, the new is bold, dangerous, and sexy. People want to hear their old favorites on their iPod, but when they go see a live concert, they want something that will be new and exciting. This means of course that new (good) music is widely listened to, and people actively go find "new" bands to hear and experience in any given genre category. They share band names like people used to suggest good book titles to each other, and unlike book sharing, people actually go listen to these sorts of suggestions. New mixes of styles and new styles altogether are widely accepted, although the argument can be made that anything venturing too far out of common tonal practice is not usually popular (however this is true also in the classical world). Most amazing to me, though, is the fact that when going to see a well-established band or musical group in the pop style perform live, audience members are looking for something new and different and exciting. They want to be able to sing along, but they also want a cool new guitar solo, or awesome chant sequence in the end with audience participation. They want new and different mixed in with the old and familiar.
We don't do that in classical music, by and large, though it is definitely starting to take hold. People are redesigning operas to show new and more relevant plot lines, stories that take place in the modern day and age and may have nothing to do with the old plots, while using more or less the same music as the original opera. People are creating classical style music and blending it with multimedia effects or electronic music. Some of this really works - though sadly it generally doesn't work with the classical audience.
There are some exceptions to this rule, and Yo-Yo Ma, however conservative he was about the "other" styles he dabbled in (folk, south american, tango, and his Silk Road album representing much of Asia, rather than rock or heavy metal, for example), was one example of an exception. He successfully built a bridge between his classical music performances and these alternative style performances to the point that he became known in both the classical and the "pop" worlds (in this case signifying the greater part of North American and much of European culture). The metal group Apocalyptica, formed with four cellos, may have been an exception at one point when they made their first album using only somewhat electrified cellos, but once they began adding singers and drummers then they really just left the classical world altogether. The instruments do not always classify the style of the music - especially not in this day and age.
By and large, though, classical music listeners want to hear their Rachmaninoff concertos, their Chopin preludes, their Bach cello suites, their Haydn symphonies, their Brahms symphonies, and so on. They want to hear them played in a relatively traditional way and tend to want to hear more or less exactly what was on their CD at home. The younger musicians, and perhaps eventually the younger audience, may learn to embrace the new directions of classical music, but the older listeners and many of the older musicians in the classical world will not budge.
I'm not saying there isn't a place for that - we have museums that show centuries-old works of visual art, and thus we should have orchestras that play traditional music in a traditional style. That should never go away. But I really think that the classical world should learn to accept the pop world, and learn from it, and at the same time teach the pop world to discern the good from the bad, the new from the rehashed, the amazing from the mediocre. Those highly trained musicians, once broken a bit out of the mold of the classical, can be incredible pop artists of all sorts. And pop artists can teach classical players to break out of their boxes. Perhaps in the end, then, we can have music that everyone enjoys - not all the same, of course, but music that everyone can learn to appreciate.
And please, no more "Music to Fall Asleep To" (or under code "Music to Relax You") CDs with the great works of Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, and Ravel... what you do with your music is up to you (I have gone through my share of pieces I wanted to fall asleep to!), but why market them specifically to be ignored?
End of rant.
Next week, some Bach!