Musical Philosophy

Sometimes when I’m asked what I feel about a particular piece of music or music in general, I tend to be circumspect in my response as I feel that music is a medium that should be listened to – generally not talked about. I think the best analogy for me that illustrates this is the director/painter David Lynch. He was with a friend once, analyzing an extremely abstract painting. The friend remarked ‘I don’t understand it.’ To which David Lynch replied: ‘Yes you do. Your eyes are moving.’ That statement, when I read it, made an indelible mark in my psyche. If only this principle were applied to more music appreciation seminars!

Everyone understands music, even the most seemingly inscrutable and chaotic. Ultimately, the very greatest music – that of the three ‘B’s’ – Bach, Beethoven and Brahms – defies and challenges any intellectual interpretation and rests only on it’s emotional power in the commission of a powerful performance. That is not to say that it does not contain intellect – but again as David Lynch has shown in his movies, verbal language dilutes meaning.

The players that mean the most to me are the ones who are always speaking, always delivering a message – even if it’s completely antithetical to the message that I feel that that particular piece conveys. Classically, names that come to me immediately are Arthur Schnabel, Shura Cherkassky, Friedrich Gulda, Alfred Cortot. I love the old guys with their old but undeniable sound! Jazz wise – Bill Evans, Louis Armstrong, Thelonius Monk, Tommy Flanagan, Dave McKenna, Ralph Sutton.

For me, I get inspiration from everywhere – not just museums and concert halls. I might get inspired by a film, an animal or even a car. For instance, I am inspired to create macabre darkness in Shostakovitch’s 1st Piano Concerto by watching ‘A Clockwork Orange’ or literally see the permutations of a fugue by watching the sinewy ‘Don’t Look Now.’ I’ve even been known to be inspired by some of John Waters’ older films…but that’s another story.

As the great Cortot expressed, I find the discussion of interpretation futile, because interpretation is a fluid and tangible creature that changes all the time – and is, in fact, resistant to sameness. That is why I get so excited to be doing this for a living – because I have the honour of touching creation.