Saturday, May 10, 2014

Leaving Our Mark.

by Caroline Stinson

Most of the time, we are all so involved with booking concerts, organizing programs, preparing for concerts, rehearsing, etc., that we spend little time thinking about what, as performing artists, we might be leaving behind. In an inherently impermanent art form, it’s good we don’t spend much time thinking about this, since there is very little we can leave behind except an experience, a feeling, possibly a transformation or just an increased interest.

The two exceptions to this impermanence are recording and commissioning. The first is obvious – we put down our (hopefully) best playing in a form that can be accessed “forever”. Those bold enough, or brave enough, will record live concerts to “leave” as a sense of what it is like (and will have been like) to hear them perform live. As the big recording industry shrinks, the smaller industries grow, and now everyone can leave their work behind by recording for smaller labels, creating their own labels, or for that matter, just posting things on YouTube. 

"Balance is everything..."
Commissioning is more … indirect, perhaps. But in the end can reach farther, especially if we explore two different sides of the experience. The first is as commissioner, and the second is as performer programming other people’s commissions. I begin to truly appreciate the impact of others commissions when I’m performing old new music. Not looking for the next new thing, not performing established works, of this century or otherwise, but finding works that suddenly pop up when you’re looking for, say, works that explore ... I don’t know… nautical themes. Or when you really want to complete a mixed program with a little cello and clarinet duo. Or when you want to focus some time on works for solo violin from the 70’s from various countries. Doing this kind of exploring and programming means that you begin to notice certain names popping up, over and over again. And you begin to realize that though our performing art may be impermanent, with commissioning, we help create a rich, and shared history in the repertoire. Therein lies a responsibility to ourselves, to what we believe in musically, and whose music we want to support and promote.

A name that has popped up for me recently? My colleague at Juilliard, wonderful musician and human being, André Emilianoff. Personally and then through the DaCapo Chamber Players and their extensive commissioning history, I have performed at least 3 works recently written for André – Très Lent by Joan Tower, Martin Bresnick’s Ballade, and I am now learning Shulamit Ran’s solo cello work from the ‘70’s Fantasy Variations. What wonderful additions to the repertoire these are, and what better way to be able to honor a colleague, and the composers, than to play “his” pieces. My students often want to play pieces they hear me perform, and quite simply, this is a big part of how a piece continues in the repertoire. 

So we need to be thoughtful about whom we commission. But I’m also saying that we have a responsibility to explore the less recent more, know the repertoire better, and be more curious about those “traces” left by others. As Commissioners we have a responsibility to foster unique, crafted works, and to play them as much as logistically possible. As Performers, we need to look backwards over the last 50 years, say, and give other people’s commissions another shot in the concert hall with a different voice– let them sound out and see what comes back. How else will we help establish what is here to stay over the next 50 years? Balance is everything –and the amount of music we can choose is staggering. What better reason could we have to be more curious and more discerning at the same time?

Caroline Stinson - Cellist of the Lark String Quartet

No comments:

Post a Comment