Perhaps we have all taken privilege of music for granted, writes the conductor. Only by taking it away do we realise how essential it is.
After seven months of musical silence, I feel very fortunate to be giving a public concert this week with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. The auditorium in Glasgow’s City Halls will be empty, but people can still listen to the performance live thanks to a simultaneous broadcast on Radio 3. Invisible listeners are not ideal, but in the context of this year a live orchestral experience of any sort is much appreciated. A musician’s need to be heard is not just psychological inspiration, needy approbation, or box office compensation. We need audiences because without anyone listening, the music doesn’t exist – merely proverbial trees falling unheard in the distant forest.
Early humans didn’t start to play music because they liked the noise it made. They sang, hit, bowed or blew to communicate with each other. There was no significant difference between player and listener. I recently came across the word “music” used as a verb. In The Power of Music, Roger Kennedy writes that “to music” unites all involved in the experience of music, whether writing, organising, playing or listening to it. It isn’t possible “to music” alone. Though listening to a piece privately can bring great solace or joy, the original purpose of music is to be connected by sharing something together as a community.