You Have to Mean It

October 29, 2014

Conducting is one of those practices you cannot hide behind. You are, in essence, a dancer, musician, and director. The tension you hold in your shoulders will come out in the music. If you lose your way for an instant, everyone feels it. You have to maintain an air of confidence and control all the while acknowledging the fact that you can control very little. At best, you can suggest music with your gestures and observe the result. It is at once an empowering and profoundly humbling profession. Conducting employs momentum and gravity and levity, tension and release, precision and ambiguity. To me, the conductor is a living abstract sculpture, hinting at melody and harmony and begging the observer to respond accordingly. The conductor is a dancer, wrapped in some intimate pas des deux with the orchestra, both constrained by the composer’s voice and also liberated by the freedom of the moment. I think, above all, whatever you do on the podium, you have to mean it. You have to lean into the gesture with the full weight of your convictions and accept the outcome, successful or otherwise. It is, as with most worthwhile endeavors, a most frightening and noble pursuit, and I have the utmost respect for those who do it well.

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