Why?

November 13, 2011

I haven’t even changed out of my concert clothes because I wanted to sit down and write this blog so quickly after Luther College Symphony Orchestra’s Fall Concert. The final standing ovation was only an hour ago, but I feel like I could be on this high forever.


    This afternoon, LCSO featured Berlioz’s “Roman Carnival,” Hovhaness’ “And God Created Great Whales,” and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” I think what’s truly amazing about these pieces is that they paint a distinct picture in your mind of exactly what they intend. This isn’t to say that all music doesn’t do this in some way, but for me, there is more definition to what this music gives. In Roman Carnival, you can see the different chaotic scenes, built on the english horn solo, both playful and sophisticated. In Hovhaness’ work, you hear actual recordings of whale song, with imitations of the ocean and it’s creatures in the orchestra accompaniment (During this piece, I can’t help but think a little of Dory from Finding Nemo and her ability to speak ‘whale,’ despite it’s biblical undertones). And, as if it weren’t obvious enough, Mussorgsky’s premise for his work was based on someone walking through a gallery and looking at different pictures ranging from Baba Yaga to gnomes running on crooked legs to hatching chicks. This piece would sound so discombobulated if it weren’t for the simple movements moving in between each “picture,” imitating an observer walking through the gallery. If you weren’t able to attend the concert this afternoon, listen to these pieces and see if you can imagine yourself watching or experiencing these different scenes.


    To top off this repertoire, my section leader was the soloist in the first movement of Dvorak’s cello concerto. It’s a rare occasion that we get to play with a featured peer, and I know that we did justice to his impeccable performance. I feel like I could conquer the world after hearing him.


    This brings me to a few thoughts about music. It’s been debated, discussed and studied among musicians forever: Why does music make us react so strongly and in different ways to different music? Somehow between the ink on the page, the interpretation by the musician, and the execution on the instrument, the listeners and musicians feel and imagine, as discussed before, what the music intends. I’ve always thought that sharing music was a privilege because of this inexplicable feeling a musician can give. Whether you’ve studied music or not, it still makes you feel something, knowingly or unknowingly. This past week as I watched the Kathie Lee and Hoda Show on NBC (yes, it’s one of my favorites), they reported a study that showed music had an influence on how wine tasted in any given situation. Being a musician, I said, “Duh.” Of course music influences a situation, any musician could have told you that! What I found interesting is they couldn’t say why: It just does. In rehearsal this week as well, Dr. Baldwin commented that he has been studying music for a very long time and has yet to answer this question. My theory is that this unanswerable question is what sustains musicians and makes music a lifelong study, beyond your music education at Luther. Let’s face it, would you want to ruin the magic of a musical experience by knowing why?

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