This blog was actually written twenty years ago in Lausanne, Switzerland at the time when I had just started to learn how to write. I hope now, twenty years later and at a time when democracy is on everyone's mind, it will be an interesting read.
Is Music a Democracy?
Frequently, while giving masterclasses, I will ask students to play a
Symphony orchestras, for example, are probably among the last vestiges of a non-democracy we have and possibly could be called a “good dictatorship”! A successful musical performance needs a strong musical personality and strong musical personalities occur far more frequently in the individual than the collective. The conductor of a symphony orchestra holds a very powerful position, a position that almost requires he be a dictator; musical decisions need to be made singularly. Assuming the conductor is a powerful musical personality, and a wise, kind and sensitive person, everything should be okay! … Well, that’s a huge assumption! We all know that not all conductors are powerful musical personalities, kind, wise
I once played in a brass quintet made up of five men with five very strong and distinct personalities, musical and otherwise, each of who
Since I moved to Europe it has been a pleasure to be invited as a judge for many brass ensembles, especially brass quintet competitions. In listening to hundreds of quintets, three things have become evident:
1. There could be no weak link in the ensemble, all the members had to be great players.
2. They had to project some kind of positivity while performing; this could be called “joy” for want of a better word.
3. And all the truly great groups, the winners, had a leader. It was abundantly clear that the winning groups had a musical leader that, with his or her strong personal musicality, influenced the other players. This became very apparent when the same quintet participated over the years and we, the judges, could hear the influence of that musical leader growing among the other players through time.
There were groups that played perfectly together and projected no musical personality whatsoever. These groups, absolutely amazed by not being advanced to further rounds, were invariably the ones who would approach the judges, demanding an explanation as to why. Trying to explain was not easy.
It’s interesting to vote in a masterclass situation and see what pleases most people, but just like testing mouthpieces for a group of colleagues, the final decision has to come from the individual.
Have the courage to be an individual, have the courage to be unique, it will serve you, it
Tokyo, September 6, 2005