A unique kind of inspiration comes from sitting in orchestra next to players who share good chemistry with colleagues.
I was reminded of this phenomenon while sitting next to one of those musicians who minds the details while also projecting a generosity of sound and spirit that invites good playing from all around her. It's just a lot easier to work together, with that kind of attitude.
Of course, this does not always happen. Very often people just kind of "play" in orchestra. Everyone sits side-by-side, but the connection is weak. Or worse, unhelpful dynamics emerge: a stand partner might get fussy and nervous, or sarcastic, or annoyed, or take offense, or fall apart.
But when the chemistry is right, it causes a wonderful phenomenon, call it "orchestral osmosis." The music somehow permeates the people making it, spreading a feeling of unity through the group. And somehow, when the focus is on the music, the notes seem to come a lot more easily. The neurotic awareness of self is replaced by a more stable and balanced awareness of the whole. Entrances seem inevitable, passages flow.
When playing in a string section, this is almost a physical phenomenon. People match each other's sound, pitch, and bow strokes. Motions synchronize, not just bows going down or up, but also the fine details such as smooth vs. stopped, fast vs. slow, unified vs. syncopated. The concept of time becomes a joint conspiracy, as everyone measures it together -- but not by the clock. Silence has purpose. Pitches synchronize and harmonize and clash, all in accordance with a plan. We become cogs in a grand machine; each musician leans into it and all parts become one.
A good conductor can help channel it, but those in the orchestra have to make it happen, they need to tap into a kind of peripheral perception that unites one with the whole. When that happens -- ahh, what a feeling it is, to be in the orchestra.
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