Music is a strange art. Other art forms like novels, poems, sculptures and paintings depict the world. Music rarely does. With the exception of some pieces imitating bird songs or other sounds, instrumental music has always been abstract. Yet, somehow, music captures life. It grips our emotions in a way that science or rationality never can.
Emotion is the true essence of music. At its best, music captures the listener and musician alike. It is hard to say what it is about music that can lift our spirits or move us to tears, but one thing is certain: Only a minor part of it is captured in the musical score put on paper by the composer. The same piece may have little effect on you when interpreted by one performer, but move you profoundly when played by another. If the same musician is playing the same piece on different occasions, one night it may turn out just technically fine, whereas another night magic can strike, and an intense emotional tension can emerge in the air, felt by musician and audience.
Only a minor part of such emotional tension can be planned or trained; it needs to come naturally. The essence of music is strangely illusive; as soon as you rationalize it, you lose it. Musicians experienced in recording know this all too well. The more you repeat and discuss a piece trying to make it better, the more of the emotional quality tends to drain away. Often the first ‘take’ turns out the best after all. No wonder that in master classes, successful performers often focus on only one message: ‘don’t think, feel’!
All good creative art, like good conversation carries emotional information between the lines. But in art which depicts the world, we can at times be distracted by the surfaces and miss the deep core of feeling where real relationship lies. Perhaps music is a quicker route to feeling and to intimacy precisely because it is abstract. The ‘real world’ of surfaces is bypassed - the true core is revealed.
The old Greeks felt that our mind, as a microcosm, contained a reflection of the real world. To me, it is tempting to see music as a microcosm too, capturing the essence of life. Strangely unreachable for rationality, but understood by all..