Holes in the Ground · Music

Performance Practice as Unanticipated Pit

Last Tuesday afternoon I went to the weekly meeting of my research group.

(But this isn’t a post about work.)

2013-06-04-294_1The weekly meetings have a rotating series of themes: this week’s was “Music Performance and Expression”. Accordingly, the first part of this meeting was a bit of a concert. To open the subject, Elaine Chew (piano) and Kat Agres (cello) played part of Brahms’ first cello sonata and talked about how players coordinate with one another.

As a lapsed cellist, though never of this standard, I found it surprisingly difficult to listen to. I was surprised by how surprisingly difficult I found it. I thought about leaving, and then I decided to put on a nice plain face.

The music itself is troubling, but I don’t think that’s all of it. I listen to a bit of cello music and I know this sonata moderately well. I don’t think I have any problem with something that is only a cello performance, no matter what the music.

It’s the analytical part I have trouble with. The closer the subject gets to analysis of how it is done, the more it raises difficult questions in me. I still work in a music-related field all day. Why did I stop playing any instruments? I used to enjoy ensemble performance. Should I be turning back toward it, or is this kind of sentimental response in me a hint that it was better to let it drift away?