BY Merja Hottinen
“The best kind of symphony orchestra is always the kind where people are not just stuck doing their own job but are part of one big string quartet, where everyone is actively into that,” says conductor John Storgårds in an interview in this issue.
Storgårds is talking about a large orchestra, one of the most highly specialised forms of ensemble playing, but his words are equally applicable to any situation where people make music together. A musical ensemble – whether a string quartet, a choir or a rock band – simply would not work if everyone in it just played their own part without reference to the whole, without listening to what the others are doing. At its best, making music together is an act of collective creativity where everyone is important.
Sometimes successful communication requires a conductor, sometimes a more democratic setup works. This does not depend on the size of the ensemble; even in a large ensemble such as an early music group or the Sibelius Academy Folk Big Band, the conductor may be just one of the guys.
And musicians need not be content with a single role. Storgårds has performed as a concert violinist in addition to his conducting career, and the Louhivuori brothers play in so many groups that they get plenty of mileage out of both leading and following. Even a composer may form part of a larger collective, as we can see from the thriving composer-in-residence programmes of many orchestras.
The ‘flow’ experience of everything coming together just right in making music is familiar to everyone who has ever performed music, but audience members can sense it too. Perhaps the increase in the popularity of live music, a major trend in the music business today, is due to just this: there is something so compelling in the communication of musicians and their collective creativity that it entrances the listener no matter what genre we are talking about. At its finest, this involves bringing the audience into the flow too, enabling them to join in the creative process.
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi