I’ll start with an apology. I have never written a blog entry before and actually only yesterday learned what a blog is (sorry for my ignorance). I don’t know how long or short a text in our fast internet world should be, so I will simply write what is on my mind and heart, and will ask for your forgiveness.
Writing about Musethica is a complicated thing since Musethica is an idea of doing and not of telling. The magic and power of this simple and modest idea lies deep within the actual activity. A power which brought extreme and unique joy to my life, and that opened doors to discover unlimited knowledge of music making and its connection with humanism in its pure form.
It all started some years ago while standing lesson after lesson in front of my wonderful students. I was trying to help them develop their sense of musical intuition and musical inspiration -which is a very frustrating process-. Dealing with a phenomenon called ‘inspiration’, and trying to teach it, is an impossible mission!
We don’t know what it is and where it comes from, so we definitely can’t reach it through our conscious way of thinking.
To emphasize, I had great students (at least some of them) that played on a high level already, playing concerts and winning competitions. I was starting to ask myself about our musical education system of performance and its limitations of helping to make the young musicians better interprets and performing musicians.
Playing a musical phrase is a combination of musical imagination “served” by what we call our “motoric” movements playing the instrument. This means that one has to first imagine a note or phrase before playing it. The fingers and hands are responding to the musical imagination. It is a bit similar as they will do when picking up a glass of water or walking up or down the staircase.
Please forgive me, (again apologizing, probably my Jewish/polish upbringing) I’m far from being an expert in the field of the brain. I speak with complete ignorance regarding the professional language concerning the brain’s activity or any neuro-activity, which (unfortunately) I know very little about.
My knowledge comes only from my daily dealing with music making, which forces one to deal with the brain. In a way, making music is like a “sport” for the brain.
Basically, musical interpretation is about translating a written musical text into sound, which another person or persons receives in the same moment. This sounds simple, but actually makes interpretation a very complicated thing. Our musical-technical decisions have to be done according to this simple idea. (Music and technique are not separated- it is only one thing that creates the musical result) In other words: music making happens when it reaches other ears. Music is a language, a way of communication, and for that we need the listener. So as most of us musicians believe, young musicians have to play in front of other people.
But how do we improve or develop this so precious thing called musicality inside the music education system?
Where are the important lessons of how to interpret music in an intuitive way? Can something like that even exist?
Back to the idea of playing in front of listeners. In the music academies, the students are usually offered a few opportunities in a year (some academies or some teachers insists of once a month, some even as little as twice a year) to play what we call “class concerts”. Class concerts means that the young musician is playing in front of his fellow students and teacher (or teachers).
This event isn’t (usually) a pleasant one in the life of the young student. The musicians usually stand scared and stiff and plays not from his musical imagination and intuition but from his motorical part. Thoughts of being “better” or being afraid of what people will think or of being judged are working miracles on the brain and “throwing” us immediately to our “conscious” way of thinking which is too slow to fulfil the complicated commands the brain needs for creating music.
I started to take my students to play outside of the academy to let them experience and “practice” their intuitive way of playing. We went to old people’s homes and to neighbourhood centres, and I simply started to invite people that were walking on the street inside to listen. For the benefit of the young musicians of course.
I found out immediately that the intuitive way of playing happens more often when there is actually no interest behind the playing except the music making itself (interest as in winning a competition, impressing the professor or the other students and so on). Something opened in the playing of the musicians, and they played more free and musical.
We started to do more and more of these kind of concerts and an idea started to come to my mind.
I thought of how wonderful it would have been for a performance program to have regular concerts outside the music academy. Concerts for people that don’t usually attend concerts halls, and as a part of the program for the young excellent musicians. The students would carefully prepare the repertoire together with the teacher. It would be a prestigious musical program, but playing for everyone- not just in private concerts for the director of Lufthansa or for the Spanish queen. Regular playing means performing weekly or monthly, with the highest level of young musicians, and not as “rehearsals concerts”.
At the time, I thought how impossible a program like this would be. And who could organise such a number of concerts, and more than that, who today wants to listen to Bach, Mozart Schubert or Stravinsky?
We musicians all over the world are “fighting” to get new audiences and we are fighting to keep the audience that is already there.
But This idea couldn’t leave me.
A few years later, rolling it in my mind here and there, I met Prof. Carmina Marcuello from Zaragoza University. We were sitting in a nice café in Zaragoza when I decided to tell her about this idea. Carmina told me how much she is connected to the social part of the city both professionally, but even more emotionally, so I guess I allowed myself to present this strange idea.
I explained to her the necessity for the students to perform and we have many programs and musicians that need to play and of course without financial compensation as they need it for their performance education.
Carmina, with her simplicity and modesty, and her unique charm said, “Vamos, Let’s do it! It’s easy for me.”
Carmina organised concerts in a few places as school of special education, prison, social enterprise factory and others. All the public showed impressive attention and listen very carefully not less and in most cases more than the public in the traditional concert halls. We came with the repertoire we prepared with out any “adjustments” to kind of special audience this or the other.
They all were so thankful and happy. Experienced music in its pure form, live, in high level of performance, near them in their daily centres. Listening almost as they were drinking every note and phrase. An every musician dream.
It was from that moment I understood that actually, it might not be so bad for the listeners too. Maybe the chaconne of Bach isn’t only for musicians or what we call music lovers. Maybe we are all music lovers?
Only in a few months, many musicians wanted to join and it started to create a lot of reactions among the young musicians that felt like they discovered a new world of music making.
I called all the young musicians that participated to my apartment late at night, asked them to sit and told them,” I need your honest opinion. I am very excited about this idea, but I am in a different place and time in my life, I already have a concert career and a professor chair, and I want to know what you think about these concerts. I don’t know what is on your mind and how you feel. Maybe you are doing it because I’m asking or demanding it, so please share with me your opinion.”
Their reactions were amazing and emotional. One said, “Now I understand why I’m studying to be a musician” and others reacted in similar and special ways.
It was a moment of understanding. There is a situation of a tremendous need of the young musicians to perform and on the other side, so many different kinds of audiences that are just waiting for these moments, and are thankful beyond belief for this gift of excellent live concerts coming to them. So where is the problem here?
From that moment on it all went very fast. Many known musicians started to join this idea from all part of the world. We created a model of education of Musethica. We got offers from many music academy for collaborations, created festivals, workshops. The level of the young Musethica musicians that are joining is keep rising as there are many that like to join and fewer places so it became prestigious musical program which is necessary as only very good concerts could work well with this wonderful special public, (public that is much less tolerant than the traditional public as some people would mistakenly think otherwise)
The repertoire is the same as in every respectable concert hall and is not an explained concert or a pedagogical concert. Solo, duos, trios, till octet, from Bach till Ligety. All is acceptable and possible only if its performed in high level.
Most important to emphasize. It is NOT an “outreach” concert project . It is NOT a charity project. It’s a fundamental change in concept of music education for performance and interpretation.
It is completely a mutual idea. The musicians learn from the wonderful public and the public is listening to wonderful music.
In a short time it became an non-profit association in Spain and then in Berlin, Israel, Poland, and a collaboration in China, and many more are adding up almost monthly. Many wonderful known musicians and young musicians. Everyone is sharing the idea and supporting it.
We are all making a big change in the way of music education. My little project (that used to be called “aurora” at the time) is not my project anymore. It is our mutual project. , all the many many people that are taking part, the musicians, the public, and all the many wonderful people that are helping and supporting.
I can’t even try start to share with you our experience of playing in all these wonderful special places and the amazing lessons we are learning every day about ourselves and about music making. I will leave the description of social experience post to my dear friend and social director of Musethica – Carmina.
Ideas without people to actually make it happen is like a note that has never been played.
For this I would like to thank in the name of us all to the Co-Founder and Social Director of Musethica and the woman that took few words and made them to a worldwide change: Carmina Marcuello.
Musethica has two faces: musical and social. One can’t be without the other. Which is in a way the definition of music making.
When I said communication with music .I do think that music is a language, but language that one actually speaks with himself (the listener). As the great Israeli writer Yoshua Kenaz once wrote, “Music is the language where the soul is conversing with its self.”
We just celebrated our 300th concert. Two and a half years. 5 countries. Education program, collaborations with different music academies, festivals and much more.
We are only in the beginning. We have a long way to go to make it a part of young excellent musicians education, and to bring with that this amazing social impact that is so needed in our society.
We do need and wish for your help and support to help Musethica grow and flower and we invite you to share this wonderful gift with us all.
Thank you for your time of reading my confused midnight writing.
I promise to write very short next time.
Warmest wishes to you all.