I decided today that I need to listen to more music. Some people might find such a statement ridiculous, coming from the mouth of one who claims to be a “professional musician”. And to an extent it is a ridiculous statement: particularly as someone who performs and commissions a lot of new music, I’m constantly surrounded by new sounds. But the truth of it, at least for me, is that the demands of juggling the various facets of a freelancer’s schedule — performing, teaching, practising, networking — often don’t allow for time to sit back and truly listen to music. Yes, one could argue that I’m listening to music whenever I practise, rehearse, or perform, but I’m talking more about a kind of listening that does not involve counting, analyzing, or a mild (yet constant) level of panic.
So the plan is this: every day I’m going to attempt to listen to a piece of music that I’ve 1.) never heard before, or 2.) heard before once or twice, but never really had the chance to truly listen, or 3.) heard before, but interpreted by a different performer. Most importantly, I’m going to make an effort to pick music that does not feature the flute in a major capacity — God knows I listen to enough flute music, so the repertoire for this project will focus more on vocal/choral, opera, string quartets, electronic music,etc. And I probably won’t post every day (in fact, I’m pretty certain I won’t). But I’m hoping to share some of my findings, particularly stuff that I think is particularly noteworthy. Some of this stuff may strike one as being blatantly “standard repertoire”, but the idea of this project is not only to unearth some of the more esoteric stuff out there, but also to acquaint and reacquaint myself with some important repertoire that I’ve simply never had the chance to get to know: for example, I’m hoping to get through a number of Bartok and Shostakovich string quartets, among other things.
I thought I’d start off with some Toru Takemitsu. This is a work of musique concrète entitled Sky, Horse and Death. The piece is strangely short in duration: I find myself just starting to get into the quasi-ritualistic repetitions of bells, vocal cries, and horse whinnying (yes, there are horse whinnies), and suddenly it’s over. It’s hypnotic, surreal, and more than a little disturbing.