Do you want to know what existential FEELS like? Any bassoonist about to walk out onto the stage to play the huge solo at the beginning of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring can tell you. Just listen to the first few seconds of the video above.
The London Symphony Orchestra captures the impact of music, particularly the Rite of Spring palpably in this second video. Hornist, Jonathan Lipton declares (00:28), “The colors and the way he [Stravinsky] writes for all the instruments will not fail to slay you.”
Is playing the oboe or bassoon a matter of life and death? I’m not actually here to discuss this at this time. But it is important to understand that for the artist, it FEELS existential. And not just for the professionals. I have the honor to coach adult amateurs. These are some of the bravest, most willingly vulnerable people I know. I have watched them walk out onto stage and just writing this sends shivers up my spine as I think of the courage they muster to step out there and present themselves.
So, what business am I in? I am in the business of saying: I see you. I know it FEELS existential. I know your work and your message are valuable. I know you rely on your reeds to connect you to your art, your message, your audience, your expression. I know you are extremely good at making reeds. I know that our collective reed making solutions are much more vast than the solutions any one person can discover in their lifetime.
I know you do NOT want to be thinking about your reeds WHILE YOU ARE PLAYING. Certainly nobody in the audience wants to be thinking about your reeds. That means your reeds need to work seamlessly, reliably, flexibly, predictably, supportively.I know what you are feeling right before that first exposed and tender note.
I know what it feels like to nail a passage, executing it EXACTLY how you imagined it in your mind the moment before. I know what this means to you. And I know what it does to a listener who is open to hear your message. I know it can change your life and his. Because there are times when the listener experiences your music as existential. If you are truly invested, your music FEELS like a matter of life and death.
*Image: Detail from the ceiling fresco Heilige Dreifaltigkeit (Holy Trinity) painted in 1723 by Johann Heinrich Ritter (ca.1685-1751). Stadtkirche, Waltershausen, Germany