Monday, 15 April 2013

Score Lines

There have been so many times over the years, that I've been on the brink of disposing of all my old vinyl. It takes up valuable space, the discs rarely if ever are played and CDs and downloads are so much more convenient and durable. So far, I've resisted the temptation, which, as time goes by, is receding. Thank, heavens. I heard this morning that the great Colin Davis has died. Wiki: "Sir Colin Rex Davis, CH, CBE, Hon DMus (25 September 1927 – 14 April 2013) was an English conductor best known for his association with the London Symphony Orchestra, having first conducted it in 1959.
"His repertoire was broad, but among the composers with whom he was particularly associated were Mozart, Berlioz, Elgar, Sibelius, Stravinsky and Tippett." On hearing this seismic news, I plunged into the depths of my crusty old cellar to dig out from a collection of abandoned LPs one that I could remember in particular.

The cover pic shows a young, strong Colin Davis on this collection leading  the Sinfonia of London in 1961. It includes the Mendelssohn Hebrides Overture, a particular favourite of mine and also the Beethoven Fidelio Overture, which was on the programme of the very first Newent Orchestra concert that I played in. Fabulous stuff. I remember the image of Colin Davis as being little in keeping with the "norm" of the tyrannical celebrity conductor. He was selfless, perhaps even in the Buddhist sense of the word, where music was concerned and, therefore, unsurprisingly, a joy for musicians to work with.

When orchestral musicians play, they are presented with a single line of music and the only time there is reference to other instruments may be in the brief, tiny cue notes. Surely, it would be rewarding to know more than this what is going on? Naturally, particularly for an amateur orchestra, any time available for practice is spent on ones own part so it's hardly surprising, that a player's knowledge of the score goes no further than this. The rest is left to the conductor to sort out. I know from experience how valuable it is when playing in a chamber ensemble to be fully aware of what is happening in the other parts and time spent on this aspect always improves the holistic nature of the music performance.

Even more, I have found that delving into not only the individual instrument lines but also the way they all hang together brings unsuspecting rewards. Like looking at a painting, to appreciate it, you don't need to study it in detail; its effect can be instantaneous. But, by jingo, a little knowledge about what's going on and its context can shed a bright light into dark shadows. The same is true of music. You may not hear or play a piece any differently or better after learning about the form of the score and the relationship of the parts, the instrumentation or the journey from beginning to end of a movement, but I can guarantee that it will be an awe-inspiring experience.

To this end, I am setting up a summer's day "workshop" to delve into the mysteries of creating a music score. This will involve the building blocks (harmony, chord progression, phrasing, style, etc.) and the way things have changed over the years up to and including music's situation today. It will be designed for players and listeners who may have never taken the trouble to explore an orchestral music score before. Let me know if you are interested and I'll send you a tempting outline of what I'm proposing for the day. Meanwhile, I recommend searching out and listening to Colin Davis conducting.

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