Last week I went to London to see David Murphy conducting three pieces, Shaker Loops (John Adams), Violin Concerto 1 (Philip Glass), Ravi Shankar’s Symphony world premiere.
It was incredible stuff. I can’t really put it into words. Listening to it live is very different from a recording. Firstly, it was quieter than I had thought it would be. When I listen to Philip Glass in my headphones it really drills into me (in a good way). But live it’s different, it is more distanced and therefore refined. The emotion of the piece is a lot more prevalent live. It’s like watching a film or reading a book where you really relate to the main character and that character is going through all sorts of stuff that really gets to you, so you can really feel how that character feels. The solo violinist was Robert McDuffie. The passion in his performance was intense. I can’t explain. I’d love to be his next door neighbour, listening to that every night as he practices.
As I was listening to the concert I was thinking about life and humanity. Now, I really don’t think humans are all that. We’re a plague upon this earth. When I listen to music like this I think about how it could be performed three hundred years from now, when electricity is no longer feeding our collective habit. I can hear the beauty in humanity when I listen to this. I don’t often hear it. There is craft here. This music is the product of human hands and minds. I feel this is different from electric-fed music where the sound has been taken through wires and into machines that have not been built by people, but other machines.
This sound comes through the musicians, the composer, the conductor, the instrument makers. No wires. Nothing but human hands and minds and hearts.
Ravi Shankar’s symphony was his first and a world premiere performance. It had never been listened to before. Anoushka Shankar played the Sitar. She spent the better part of an hour sat on the floor in what would have been an impossibly painful position for me. The sounds were a marriage of the east and west. I loved to hear such classical Western instruments making such a vibrant Eastern sound. The Sitar is an instrument that holds an intense power, far more powerful than western instruments. It’s like hearing the voice of the gods. To me the sound is a lot more refined and spiritual than western instruments, even western instruments making eastern sounds. The piece sounded like freedom, connected into a lighter sort of realm than Glass or Adams. Anoushka spent her time bopping to the rhythm, something that doesn’t really happen in other symphonies. There was clapping, the use of human voice (but not really singing) both of which really added a level to the music that broke through the mind/ body barrier that I think western composers have. By this I mean, you could feel a rhythm that makes your body feel connected, want to dance, want to move in time with the sound. That is not really present in Glass or Adam’s, at least not as obviously.
I can’t really relate what I mean. This music moves beyond the realm of written language.
I think I am hooked. I think I will go again to see classical performances of this kind whenever possible. The tickets were a hell of a lot cheaper than any other music gig I have ever been to (£16 for a fairly good seat. You can get them as cheap as £9. Compare this with Audioslave, who I saw years ago at a cost in excess of £30 and it made me semi-deaf for a week).
I love that what you hear at the concert is unique. It will never be played in that exact same way again. It is transient. Transience is beautiful because life is transient.