Music Making

Music Making

Hyo-shin Na – written for the Korea Times SF – 10/19/2012

During the last few days I’ve been listening to a group of musicians rehearse the music of other composers in preparation for a concert that took place Friday evening. This was an ensemble of 7 musicians playing music by 3 composers, each of whom writes in a strikingly individual way.
When playing Christian Wolff’s “Exercises” (a rather dry title for such amusing, unpredictable music) the players followed the composer’s instructions by listening intently to each other, sometimes playing their parts together, sometimes independently, sometimes using the rhythms given by the composer but using their own pitches (or melodies), at times making noises on their instruments, then waiting and listening to find out whether they should go on playing or whether the piece was indeed finished.

In John Cage’s “Ryoanji” each musician had a highly detailed part to play, but each of these parts was to be played without considering the other players’ parts; a sort of superimposing of solos.

When two musicians played Walter Zimmermann’s “Irrgarten” (“Labyrinth”) they played a piece that was originally intended for a European zither but was now being played on two seemingly similar (but in reality, very different) Asian instruments, Korean kayageum and Japanese koto. They had made their own version of the composer’s original score.

None of these pieces involved a conductor, who would necessarily dictate to the musicians how and when they should play. Instead, these were situations where the composer respected the players who, at the same time, trusted the composer. Why else would they expend so much effort to play the music?

A two-way street: respecting and trusting others and knowing that I am trusted and respected. This is certainly one way to happiness…