I often find myself drawing parallels between playing the viola and other things I like doing: running and orchestra rehearsals (you always feel significantly better afterwards even if you start out with very little enthusiasm); cooking and practice (sometimes fun, creative and rewarding, sometimes mind-numbingly pedestrian and functional).
Today’s parallel is with blogging: I’m about as good at that as I am at playing the viola, by which I mean that I’m only able to focus on one very small area at a time and I haven’t even really nailed that area. So, I can just about play the notes these days but thinking about posture, dynamics, vibrato, watching the conductor, turning the pages etc at the same time makes my head spin. And while I manage to squeeze in a blog post each week, two if I’m being ambitious – plankton-scale fry in the blogosphere – I struggle to simultaneously exchange witty soundbites with other musicians and bloggers via twitter, get people to ‘like me’ on facebook and keep abreast of all the other blogs I follow (they have a vortex-like power over me, once I start browsing I’m there for hours).
Most importantly though, I often miss out on really interesting content elsewhere online. Yesterday was a classic(al) example, I found out, too late, that Mumsnet had hosted a live webchat with award-winning conductor Charles Hazlewood about children and music. I’ve since seen the transcript and it’s definitely worth a read when you have a few minutes but in the meantime, I’ve posted a few of the points he made that particularly resonated with me.
The role of group playing:
“The issue of practice is… difficult because you want music making to be a joyous thing for your kids. BUT, you also know that if they put some graft in, they’ll get even more pleasure from it… really the best thing is to create opportunities for your kid to make music with other people. That will raise their game, remind them what an absolutely amazing thing music is, and cause them to learn stuff from the others…”
What makes a musician:
“Excellent musicianship comes about for a multitude of reasons. Some people just have the right genetic mix, and find music naturally easy. Others achieve brilliance through sheer hard graft, and many others are probably somewhere in between!
It’s very important though not to treat music like alchemy, or a kind of deep magic which only anointed people can access. We ALL have music in us, it’s just that most of us are unconfident about it.
The only important thing is to have extreme hunger for music. If you have that ‘burn’, you’ll become a great musician come what may.”
Classical music for a wider audience:
“I think more people would love orchestral music if it felt more open to them. Sitting in an arid concert hall staring at a full page in the programme which tells you all the things you’re not allowed to do, like cough, eat sweets, talk (and by extension, DON’T EVEN THING ABOUT BRINGING SMALL CHILDREN etc etc), surrounded by mildly smug people who ‘know’ how to be, this is their world, not yours. I hate all that. Music is for everyone… which is why I have throughout my career tried to create different kind of models…so the gig at the Festival Hall this Saturday is a great big hootenanny: a bloody amazing orchestra, some amazing young performers from Southwark, lots of chat, demonstrations, getting under the surface of what makes a great piece of music great.”
I’ll be taking my brood along to the Festival Hall in a couple of days time and am also tempted by the Orchestra in a Field event that he’s running this summer. The website promises an extraordinary line-up from Mussorgsky and Bizet to Rap Slam and a guitar orchestra led by Portishead’s Adrian Utley.