Thursday, May 23, 2024

What is it we want to say?

Last evening I attended a contemporary chamber music concert to which I’d been invited by some friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. It was located within walking distance so I got there a few moments before start time, took a seat in the front row and tried to relax from the jarring energy that is midtown Manhattan. Before long a gentleman came to the front of the room and introduced himself as the artistic director of the ensemble. He prefaced his remarks by apologizing that he did not have a witty means of conveying his feelings about the present political situation in the US, while still managing to insert some caustic rhetoric into that apology, and would instead simply tell us a little about what we were going to hear, a scene which folks found amusing.  

I was grateful to be there yet something bothered me about those remarks. I tried letting go but it wasn’t until halfway through the concert that I realized those words were having a limiting effect on how I was listening. It was as if the music and everyone involved suddenly had to stand for an ideology. It also felt limiting with respect to any sincere motivations that may have brought him to speak that way in the first place. Beyond agreement or disagreement it was at odds with the openness that naturally occurs within a roomful of people gathered to take part in a creative undertaking.

As I’m writing this a strong thunderstorm has suddenly developed outside, causing me to me stop what I’m doing, open the window and take a deep breath. It’s the smell of rain and there is a word for it, petrichor. It’s probably more the odor of the earth, a welcome antidote to the thick of concrete, asphalt and cars. Short of any actual damage, I love the energy of a rainstorm, probably because it’s a shared experience in spite of any particular opinions one may have of it. This one turns out to be rather short and now I’m left to pick back up and make some sense out of what I was writing…

The assumption on the part of the director that everyone there was on the same page politically was likely correct, and yet that somehow made the proceedings feel a bit smaller.  Conversations about art and ideology are typically fraught, embedded as they are in the language of conflict. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up and tangled in “this” at the expense of “that” such that trying to resolve anything by those means only leads to deeper, more entrenched conflict.  It seems like such a simple thing to say and yet this plays itself out on every level from the mundane to those of epic proportion.  This instance was somewhere closer to the mundane, almost not worth mentioning.  The overall experience was positive and I respect the fact that this person was able to make such an event happen.  I’m in a certain amount of awe of this, asking myself what it would take for the improvised music scene to have such support.  Still, I feel it's important to take into account these small things as they do tend to add up and the effects are not always seen.

The sun has now come back into the picture and the wind which was moments ago threatening the fortitude of the trees has now, just as suddenly, taken the form of calm as the streets begin already to dry and activity resumes. Interesting that there is no language involved in that process, just the residual dusts blowing through my mind in the form of words.

And where is that music from last night? Political words weren’t enough to hold it and the words that blow around in my head this morning don’t seem to be taking much form either. I’m going to go to another concert this afternoon. I doubt anyone will bring up politics this time but of course that will be in the room, in it’s form, along with everything else in the world.  

What is it we want to say?

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