Music as Visual Expressions
A couple of Sundays ago, the schedule gods aligned the stars for me, and I was able to attend Sunday night’s Frequency Series concert at Constellation. In addition to having the opportunity to hear some crazy awesome music, I was also able to WATCH an amazing performance.
Here’s the thing: my work with 5HE requires me to do so much during concerts (follow scores & run slides, take photos, stand backstage waiting to move stands & chairs, herd cats), that I very rarely get the chance to just sit and observe a concert. And I forgot how incredibly visually stimulating concerts are — even ones without projections!
I find watching the minutia of facial expressions (both self reflective expressions and expressions made between ensemble members), the tensions that ebb and flow through a performer’s body, and the physical aspects that are required to perform to be almost as exciting as listening to the music. Many people go to concerts to listen, but the idea of watching musicians perform and figuring out how things work and where sounds come from is equally exciting. At least that’s my opinion, and I would venture to guess that others in my over-stimulated generation might agree.
In theater school, they teach you that everything you do has to be a choice, not a mistake. You drop a prop? Turn picking it up into an action that your character would do anyways. I think the same goes for musicians. Because live performance is also very visual, it’s important for body language and your presence on stage to have meaning.
And the meanings behind these visuals create an even greater opportunity to connect to the audience. When I do get to watch members of 5HE perform, I’m so incredibly drawn in by watching the way Drew and Herine hand emotional passages back and forth between each other, by watching Eric jam and have an absolute blast regardless of if he’s playing Beethoven or Burhans, seeing the emotion of the music play across Jenny’s face as she powers through thoughtful passages, and feeling incredible anticipation of what’s to come when Melissa switches from flute to piccolo for the first time in a piece. All of these visuals create as much of a story for me as projected images, and they make experiencing the music even more incredible.
And, you know, even when we have beautiful images projected during our concerts, audiences can still be drawn in by watching the musicians. My parents came up from Indiana to see 5HE perform at the MCA last spring. After the concert, I asked my dad what he liked best. Thinking he’d say something either about which piece was his favorite or the videos for Excelsior, I was completely shocked when he said how much he loved watching the faces, eyes in particular, of Drew, Clark, Herine, and Eric while they absolutely nailed Shostakovich’s Ninth String Quartet. But now that I think about it, I have no idea why I was shocked, because that’s what I love too!