“We must play from the soul, not like trained birds.” ~C.P.E. Bach
“My purpose for performing is to communicate the joy I experience in living.” ~John Denver
I’m a week into my second semester as a sophomore here at MSU’s College of Music, and it certainly feels nice to be back into the swing of things. Among my classes is “History of Western Music since 1750.” It’s the second and final semester of the music history requirement for my degree, and I’m looking forward to learning and growing in this class, as I did last semester.
This past week we read and reflected on C.P.E. Bach’s writing on playing keyboard instruments. It’s an interesting read, from hearing his take on ornamentation, the sound and uses for the harpsichord and clavichord, and his advice for performers. The quote found above is what I find to be the most powerful sentence in that particular writing. He goes on to argue that the performer must genuinely be emtionally invested and connected to the piece of music that he or she brings to the audience. The whole purpose for performing music is to evoke emotions and to transform both the performer and listener.
The concept of music being an art, rather than a purely academic pursuit, is one that I have pondered a considerable amount over the years. In high school, I was what I would now consider to be a musical purist. I argued that classical music was meant to be played a certain way, and that an artist’s interpretation or emotion invested in a given piece was of little significance. I viewed the technical side of playing an instrument or a composer’s work to be more crucial to the effectiveness of a performance than the heart and soul put into the music.
Somewhere along the way I shed my crotchety view on the performing arts and became the artsy fartsy pseudo-hippie that I am today. I can’t point to a specific time when I decided that I no longer bought into such a strict mindset, or think of a certain event that triggered my transfer to the dark side. I credit many of my musical influences, such as my harp instructor and other musical mentors in my life at the time. Whatever the reason, I am completely sold on the idea of music being a beautiful art form meant to transform lives, not just to demonstrate and display technical mastery. Both listening to and performing music can, and should be, a very emotional and spiritual experience for both the performer and the audience. Music is so much more than notes on a page. It is one of the best, most beautiful, most touching things mere humans can experience here on this earth. Therefore, I strive to do my best to create music that touches the soul, and hopefully I can continue to improve and grow in that area for the rest of my life.