Where Has Chamber Music Gone?
This week’s 5HE Inspiration Post is brought to you by Fifth House Ensemble’s Bass Player, Eric Snoza. Eric is also the genius behind 5HE’s beautiful and captivating photos.
Remember when musicians would just come to your house and provide live performances – or when fellow musicians would just stop by with instrument in hand and say “hey, you wanna listen to something?” Well, if this does not sound familiar, don’t worry, it is an art that has been lost for over a hundred years!
It may be a surprise to some that the definition of chamber music not only defines the size and type of the ensemble, but also refers to the place where these ensembles would perform – ie. Someone’s Chambers…their home.
I was recently trolling through some YouTube videos of one of my favorite bands, Shinedown, and I happened by the following video. Watching this flipped the light switch on the dimming bulb above my head and reminded me why we as musicians do what we do and made me sad to think about how this art has been lost.
Shinedown is a platinum-selling band that has performed in front of crowds of thousands, and yet, here they are sitting in a fan’s living room in the company of maybe a dozen, having some drinks, and listening to some amazingly soulful music. As the camera pans around the group you can see the overwhelming joy in the faces of these fans. Not only do they get to listen to their favorite artist perform right in front of them, but they can shake his hand and pass him a cold one…I personally get chills thinking about it. THIS HERE…is Chamber Music. Bringing your art to the people and plopping it down right in their living room.
Our society over the decades has become infatuated with being bigger and more elaborate and the way we perform and deliver music has followed. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love laser shows and pyrotechnics as much as the next, but close your eyes, picture your favorite band or artist, now imagine them in your living room giving you a private performance, now which would you rather see….RIGHT!
After watching more of the related videos it made me think of some of the most memorable musical experiences of my life. Some memories that came into my head were not actually the ones where I was in front of a lot of people, for instance: hanging out with my best friend Mike Knockenhauer after high school at his house playing duets and performing pieces we were working on in front of his family – having Drew (our esteemed violinist) pull me aside in my dining room and say, “hey, can you listen to me play Arches” – and playing at the David’s (as we affectionately call them) in front of a few close friends and enjoying some amazing food after. THIS HERE…is Chamber Music!
Again, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE our bigger subscription series performances. I dream of one day playing on stage and having fire blast out behind me and a laser pointer on the tip of my bow, whilst hanging upside down from suspension cords….BUT, I think musicians need to revisit a long-lost practice of intimate performance, the forgotten practice of sitting around and playing for each other, and bring back the art of Chamber Music.
And, as Forrest Gump would say, “that is all I have to say about that…”
Fifth House Ensemble