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Dottie Case

Living in the Musical Moment

July 30, 2012 at 11:10 PM

The arts school where I work does two major productions every summer...a musical and an opera. (Our season is summer only, due to lack-of-heat and need-of-new-roof in our historical building). This summer we scheduled Carousel and La Boheme, and last week(19th-22nd) was show week for Carousel.

It ended up being a really amazing show (I had previous reservations about this show due to the truly-dreadful-and-insipid movie I'd seen, starring a young Shirley Jones) and, as is true of show week, it was all-enveloping. We lived and breathed Carousel for the last 8 days straight, and everyone involved felt highly invested in this really lovely performance. We closed on Sunday afternoon, exhausted but feeling like we had really been part of something major.

The very next Wednesday was the first orchestral rehearsal for La Boheme. I am unfamiliar with this Opera (I'm a slowly-learning novice when it comes to Opera), and am playing viola (!!!) for this show. As I dragged my tired self to rehearsal, I didn't know what to expect, but I was absolutely blown away. We had a skeleton string section there... 1 first, no 2nd, 1 viola.... but there were places where I could just HEAR the whole fleshed-out orchestra, and it blew me away. The lushness and romance was more than I expected.

On the way home that night, I found myself thinking, not for the first time, about the temporal nature of almost all that we do. Four days prior to that rehearsal, we were a part of creating something wonderful for Carousel... the audiences were moved to tears and thunderous applause. And yet, at the end of it, we erased our books, packed away the stand lights, and immediately moved into the next work that will (we hope) move an audience to tears and applause. While it's happening, it's huge and defining and all-encompassing...and then it's over and gone and we're onto the next thing.

This is the nature of what we do. The finest recording equipment cannot capture that 'thing' that exists between audience, actors and musicians, and a composer. It's ephemeral and fleeting... This is true of many moments in life too...'joy' cannot be captured and held onto. Just experienced and maybe even savored. Still, the balance for us all is to be able to be fully in the moment of making music, (in the hugest definition of that phrase) and then be able to move to the next thing, in its time, even if that means mere days later. AND, it's impossible, not to mention counter-productive, to attempt to live in the future. Meaning, there was no way to be experiencing Puccini while engrossed in Carousel...and the attempt would have robbed each.

It seems to me that the sort of ability to be 'in the moment fully' is a skill that might be well transferred to the rest of life. I'm better at in in music than I am in my daily life.

I've spent much of the last month virtually crippled with waiting and agonizing over what would/would not be my job status in September; and how might I prepare for the various possibilities. I've finally decided that since I cannot know, I'm going to let August be fully about August, and attempt to live as intensely in all of those things as I can, before September comes and demands its due.

Luckily for me, August contains La Boheme and a week of Chamber Music camp for me.


From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on July 31, 2012 at 6:15 PM
I know what you mean about the ephemeral nature of our performances. In a previous life I was involved in a local theatre group. On closing night, after the final applause died away, we'd start striking the set, and 60 minutes later there would be no sign that we had ever been there. All that was left of everything we had put into the performances - and the 10 weeks of rehearsals that preceded them - was a few programs, some battered scripts, and a storage locker full of props and flats.

It's that way with music too. Last night I was at an outdoor bluegrass jam. It was one of those nights when the magic happened. We nailed three-part harmonies, everyone contributed little fills just at the right time, and we all shared an endorphin high which we acknowledged at the end of each piece, either with whoops and hollers or sometimes just a whispered "wow". The last half a dozen of us played until 1 a.m. because we just couldn't stop. But finally we packed up and slipped away, just as our sounds had drifted off into the air, leaving nothing behind but a few straightening blades of grass.

There's only one way to recapture that feeling: do it again - and again, and again. I'm thankful for all my musical friends that make that possible.

May September bring you good fortunes - and lots of music.

From marjory lange
Posted on July 31, 2012 at 9:20 PM
That's why live performance can never be replaced with recordings; recording freezes something vital (like putting a butterfly in formaldehyde). Ephemerality is a special thing about being really alive.
From Eloise Garland
Posted on August 1, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Beautifully written and exactly my thoughts on music. Sometimes, trying to capture something beautiful and make it eternal can take away that beauty and emotion. Music, for me, is something that has to live in the moment. Although we all have our favourite and most inspiring recording, nothing comes close to being there and hearing something live. The atmosphere is electric and full of shared emotion caused by the sheer beauty of sound. And also, it's addictive!! :-)
From Veronica Germain
Posted on August 2, 2012 at 4:15 PM
Your statement, "letting August be about August" really struck me. I am a Suzuki-in-the-Schools teacher so August is very precious to me. Thank you for reminding me that the best way to enjoy it is to live in the moment. :-)

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