Tuesday, 8 June 2010

See, I told you I wouldn't be long!

Fading a bit as the morning came to a close, I was rescued by the one-cup espresso pot I bought at a Milan Market. You would have thought it was for a doll-house until you heard it gurgle and seen that inside the grinds and water have indeed brewed to form a very small and very perfect shot of espresso.

Among the things weighing on my mental list of items to blog about, a key one this week has been regarding the compromises involved in combining music with other disciplines. Not that it always has to be a compromise, but it depends on the priorities of the production.

For instance, I was involved in a dance show last year, a fascinating and touching exploration the lives of cloistered nuns in the 17th Century. There was gorgeous music dug up by Candace Smith and amazing dancing going on, but the music was constantly being compromised for the sake of the "dramatic flow." Logistical problems like having to be at the other end of the room at the end of a piece I was playing in meant not playing the (climactic, forte) last three measures, leaving it for the harpsichord alone. Or having the gamba, which had been lying on a cold stone floor for half an hour, tune loudly during an otherwise tender piece, so as not to have to stop and tune between. Or once, having it simply not tune at all (I was almost in tears playing in duo with it). And so on. Over the course of the project I found myself slowly having to disconnect from the idea that I had been brought there to contribute from my years of specialization in playing early music. If fitting it into "the big picture" of that show meant crushing it into a tiny box, it wasn't for me, I felt depressed about it for weeks after. I felt like I'd prepared a big meal all week and right when it was on the table, in all its glory, all my guests stayed outside to watch a pretty sunset and by the time they got back it was cold and congealed, dried out, wilted. And then afterwards, slightly guiltily, they all told me how great it was, though none of us actually experienced what it could have been.

I hesitate to write that story in the midst of all this Globe fluster - it's not been the same experience by any stretch, but a few times I've been haunted slightly by memories of last year's dance show by a couple of short-term compromises we've made to solve one logistical problem or another in the context of a stage rehearsal. If something was too long or too short, we'd cut or repeat bars on the spot; someone standing in the wrong place resulted in a key trumpet line simply missing. The difference here though is that seconds later, our composer (and at the Globe there is a composer assigned to every show, with authority close to that of the director), jumped up and off to the office to rewrite the bit or solve the placing problem, restoring integrity to the cue that had just been trampled on a wee bit by dramatic necessity - whew! The result in the end is that the music is effective and perfectly tailored to the show, the tailoring so well done that the stitches don't show.

In between though, in those moments when we're asked to fix something before she's jumped up, I have held my breath a bit, wondering what music would result from a last-minute alteration, which I would then have to repeat 35 times in the course of a run. But these fears have been subsiding, knowing that whatever we get, while it might be short, it will be the most effective music for the moment at hand, i.e. we'll always feel good about being there and playing it. On Sunday though, shortly before the premier started, we the band were told from the director's scrawled notes that a certain cue was too loud, so in a pinch the musical director cut my high slide trumpet line with military articulation. I wanted to just take out some of the harsh articulation and bring the high notes down into a quieter register, but as none of us in the room were the composer: we didn't have the authority to change notes around, we could only play or not play, and the line was cut. Had she been standing there, I'm sure she would have been open to suggestion - she realizes how important it is for us to be involved in the creative process in order to invest ourselves in the show - but in this case it was important to keep the hierarchy intact in her absence. It was frustrating, but I'll be the first to argue that ultimately, people are more important than music - rewriting notes as she listened from the audience might have inadvertently conveyed a harmful message. I have no doubt that she'll bring us a brilliant modified cue for today, but in that show, this last minute pinch resulted in the two trombones coming out and playing their empty harmonies to my non-existent fanfare while I awkwardly stood by, clutching my slide trumpet and thinking of England.

Now to write an email saying yes to a Bach Cantata in August which will bring me almost no money at all... But its hard to say no to a fugue and a cantus firmus going along all at the same time, not to mention a chance to say hello to Basel friends and indulge in a swim in the Rhine. Also this week I've been invited to play for the first time with His Majesty's Sagbutts & Cornetts in what looks like a very fun concert indeed.

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