The Conductor and the Music

"For the body does not consist of one member but of many.." 1 Cor.12:14
"...when each part is working properly, builds itself up in love." Eph.4:16b
"My sheep hear My voice.." John 10:27
"He who be greatest among you must be the servant of all." Mark 10:43

"The conductor is not a powerful person. It appears so, but it is not so. On the surface it seems that the music is produced by the power of the conductor to tell everyone what to do and when to do it. He may have to do that, but it is not what makes the music." (If he does too much directing, the real music will not be heard, but only his own idea of it).

"A good conductor does not merely tell everyone what to do; rather he helps everyone to hear what is so. For this he is not primarily a telling but a listening individual: even while the orchestra is performing loudly he is listening inwardly to silent music. He is not so much commanding as he is obedient."

"The conductor conducts by being conducted. He first hears, feels, loses himself in the silent music; then when he knows what it is he finds a way to help others hear it too. He knows that music is not made by people playing instruments, but rather by music playing people."

"How does music play people? Through consciousness. So the conductor reveres the individual consciousness of the members of the orchestra as the precious instruments that music plays. By any and all means he endeavors to conduct his orchestra into a consciousness of what the music is. For this he is at once absolutely subservient to the music and absolutely respectful of the artists' consciousness as musical instruments. And he is always trying to factor himself out so that nothing whatsoever comes between the music and its instruments, the artists' consciousness. The conductor knows that music makes the music."

"The musicians play accurately, flawlessly, energetically... And yet it is not music, because they don't hear or feel it" (having been forbidden to play or listen to Western music for so many years).

"At different times he responds in different ways. There is a time to be firm and a time to be gentle; a time to interfere and a time to let be; a time to demonstrate and a time to refrain... a time to encourage and a time even to chastise; a time to permit, a time to forbid... How does he know what and when? Evidently he is guided by a keen discernment of what the music is saying, and of what each musician is ready to hear.... "

"Everything Stern does or says is to help the student become conscious of what the music is. His power as a conductor is the power of music over him. He knows that everyone has the potential to become conscious of the music and everything he does is designed to liberate that potential. Sometimes he helps us discover it for ourselves. Sometimes he helps us encounter it through a demonstration.... The conductor is always ruling himself out, replacing himself as the conductor and teacher through elevating the consciousness of the musician to a point of direct contact with the music itself." Isaac Stern in China


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• © 1999-2002 Len Hjalmarson.• Last Updated on May 31, 2002