Thursday, June 24, 2010

Collaborative music

Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is.

H. Jackson Browne

Imagine, the day is winding down, dusk beckons in the long shadows. I am driving west, into the foothills. The road unfurls before me. A ribbon of concrete serpenting through the foothills. Miles and miles of green meadows and fields fan out to the edges of tree encased hills on either side of the highway, dotted with grazing horses and calves gamboling amidst the herds. It is a bucolic scene of life at the foot of the Rockies unfolding in time and space. I drive through a rain shower. Into sun spotted clearing. Through rain shower. Into sun spotted clearing.

The city falls away behind me. I breathe deeply of the tranquility and beauty. Billowy clouds fill the sky where the mountains play hide and seek amongst the mists.

My destination. The Banff Centre where I am to participate in what the invitation calls, "A unique experience. sitting among a string quartet while the musicians are rehearsing and performing, you experience a team working together from within."

I have no preconceived notions. No idea what to expect. The experience can't help but be unique. I've never been part of a string quartet transitioning "from dissonance to resonance".

I am not to be disappointed.

We were 30 or so invited guests. A sprinkling of one or two musicians. The rest, music lovers. music indifferents. We weren't there to 'appreciate' the music. We were there to gain "valuable insights into building the collaborative and innovative capacity of your team."

We sat in a circle around the quartet, our chairs close enough to read the music. To hear the twang of the bow as it crosses the strings of the cello. To feel the electric energy of the musicians as they moved through each bar of the 5th movement of Beethoven's String Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131.

It was fun. Entertaining. Interesting. Inspiring. Exciting. And yes, a unique experience.

Jeremy Gershfeld, the founder of the Quartet Approach, deftly lead the process, highlighting how his energy affects the groups' simply by his very human condition of mood, temperament, personality, preconceived notions, stereotypes he holds -- they share, the questions he asks and the way he asks them -- their responses, their input, their unique perspectives.

He began with the cellist. Stop. He said after a couple of bars. I don't like your tempo. Make it faster.

The second violinist's eyes widened. Her back straightened.

What's going on here, he asked? Did anyone see her response?

She's upset, replied a woman who sat across from the first violinist. You spoke too harshly. Too abruptly.

Jeremy turned to the second violinist. "Is that true? Did my tone upset you?"

The second violinist hesitated. Swallowed. "You shut her down. You didn't need to do that."

The cellist piped up. "I don't care. These are my notes. I get to play them at my tempo."

Collaboration blew past in a flurry of discordant notes.

Can you see how my temperament stops the flow?

He turns to the violist. What is the issue here?

You're interested in the technical aspects of the piece, of getting it right and she's interested in the essence of it. She wants to be with the music, at its heart.

Emotion, Jeremy inserts. Am I understanding you correctly? She wants to feel the emotion?

We, the audience who was not the audience but part of the process, sat and watched in rapt wonder as the four musicians dipped and bowed and played through each bar, each stanza. We participated through observation, through our energy lending credence to the impact of their playing.

And through it all, Jeremy would stop and ask, "Did anyone see what happened? Do you see how my tone affects her playing? How do we connect? How do we communicate? How do we collaborate?"

It was a fascinating evening of learning mixed with beautiful music, observation and wonder.

I sat in the concert hall and watched and listened and closed my eyes and let the music sink into me and when I opened them, I looked up through the huge windows that encompassed one wall framing the majesty and beauty of the granite rock waiting outside the door through time eternal. The sky had cleared. Blue light encompassed grey rock. I felt my spirit soar.

Music does that.

It transports. It lifts me up. It energizes me and soothes me and carries me into that place within where I am not the seeker nor the sought after. I am not lost needing to be found. I am nowhere but where I am. I am the One. One with the One in the moment of my seeking that which can never be sought because it was never lost, never gone. I am found in the moment of being.


Anonymous said...

geez Louise,

I find your commens surprising; though the 'in the mix of their process' is probably a lot of voyeuristic fun, it strikes me that the dynamics between conductor and musicians ....

seems a lot to me, like dynamics you've written about often ..

by that I mean

the abuser (the conductor) and the abused (the musicians) whereby the abused will subvert themselves to please the abuser

do you see a correlation?

it leaps off the page for me


katdish said...

Fascinating conversation! I identify with the performer more interested in the emotion of the piece. Technical perfection is impressive, but without passion music has no soul. Such as life.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Hi mark -- not sure what you're reading that I'm missing...

Jeremy was doing it as an illustrative process i.e. he purposefully acted the way he did to solicit the response to demonstrate how tone, words, etc. affect someone in a group and can shut them down.

It was fascinating as we were all watching for nuances based on each element he exposed as the process unfolded.

Good point Kat -- it truly is -- such as life -- the conversation illustrated it so well it was inspiring!

Maureen said...

I would have so enjoyed being part of this. Especially as one who has sung in a college choir with a very demanding conductor who helped us make the most beautiful music. Team dynamics cannot be ignored.

As in music, so in many other areas. One can get all the notes right and still fail to play music. Everyone can be playing the right notes but if not in sync they produce only noise.

I "get" Mark's point but don't think it's applicable in this particular gathering as you've described it.

Sandra Heska King said...

What a learning experience!