Friday, January 30, 2009

No Words


I try hard to get out of the opera rut. (Here's a true confession: I am fascinated with opera, I adore the people who make it, but I often don't understand the people who love it.) Going to the opera has its rewards, but it's usually a complicated busman's holiday. So when I spend a free evening as a patron, I am particularly excited when I have an opportunity to go to the theatre, hear some chamber music or symphony, or - as was the case last night - see some fabulous dance.

It didn't hurt that a friend was up there on the stage. But it didn't stop there.

I love the marriage of music and words. Abstract (read: textless) music sometimes feels naked to me. Incomplete, perhaps. Add the fact that I am most definitely not a visually-oriented person, and you have a prescription for an ambivalent dance patron. But last night's Mozart Dances was a home run.

When I see an inspired physicalization of a musical motif, it's as if a door opens. I want to scream to all of my old piano students, "Look!! That's what it should sound like!" This ability of the kinesthetic and the visual to inform the aural is not something that should surprise me. But because it originates with my weakest sense, it is an eye-opener. (Sorry, bad pun.)

Cross-fertilization is my life. (There's probably a better, less agricultural term, but this is the description that makes the most sense.) The emotional texture and color in language marry wonderfully with the singing voice. The linear beauty and scientific clarity in math clarifies the structure of theatre and music. The patterns of history and cultures positions me to appreciate the differences in other human beings. (Can you tell that liberal arts education is a soapbox from which I have a hard time descending....?)

After the performance, words felt completely superfluous. We were too tired to stay for the Q&A afterward, but I left without regrets. Because truthfully, I didn't want to hear anyone talk about it.

6 comments:

Rachel Budde said...

I spent my holiday in Paris this year, and I was privleged enough to see the ballet of the Opera National de Paris perform.

Having studied Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Firebird endless in music school (Theory, Music History, Form and Analysis, etc), it was an incredible experience to actually see them as they were meant to be done. I listen to it now and the music makes so much more sense because I have a visual to go along with it. I can't describe it, really, but it was amazing.

They also danced to Strauss' Vier letzte Lieder, and I was surprised to find that the dancers and the choreography added to the music and the text rather than detracted from it, which had been my expectation. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

You should try to see some Balanchine.

ava said...

If writing about music is supposedly like dancing about architecture...then what would writing about dance be? hmmm...

I learn so much from watching dancers. The way they inhabit the music / character / emotion of a piece is so amazing. And I am often slack jawed in amazement at how beautiful the body can be. I am sure I would have loved this performance!

Kristin said...

Kim,

Is that friend Brady in the middle of your photo? He's loads of fun.

Kristin said...

Oh and...p.s. I have a liberal arts soapbox too. You should hear me talk at young artist programs (and pre-young artist programs) about the imperative need to subsidize a conservatory education for undergrads for those who've already chosen such a degree (something with which I don't quite agree already).

Fenlon Lamb said...

Kim, I can't agree more with the get out of opera rut...and dance is always my favorite "concert". I also saw the Mark Morris Dance Group when we first arrived in Ann Arbor. The performance was electric and gave me that "you are home" feeling. The absolutely universal language of the body made me smile and cry at the same moment. I also love the sheer size of the dancers up on that stage-how much presence they all exude. Even if I know the truth...Brady is not even as tall as I am ;-)