Daily Bow: Who is the modern musician?

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Pianist David Greilsammer Leads a Break with Conservative Practices

Here at String Visions, we’ve always been an advocate of revolutionizing classical music. Bringing orchestras out of the dark ages, attracting new listeners, and reshaping the classical world as a constantly adapting art are but a few of the ideas we’ve written about. This might sound like a difficult task, but there are many simple solutions that could go a long way. Change up concert programs by pairing the works of revered masters with contemporary composers or rarely heard works; hold concerts in unusual venues instead of stuffy old concert halls; experiment with other genres of music—such as jazz and electronic—and other artistic mediums in order to create a more engaging experience.

These simple solutions are just a few of the ideas shared by the pianist and conductor David Greilsammer in a recent interview. Born in Israel and educated at the Juilliard School, Greilsammer is an adventurous pianist known for his unique and unusual recitals. The concerts typically have programs that break the rules of the classical establishment: Scarlatti is paired with Cage and dance or media is mixed on stage with the music. As the director of the Geneva Chamber Orchestra, he has pushed the limits of concert venues, conducting performances in an airport and encouraging a shift from concert halls to nightclubs. Most important to Greilsammer, however, is the role of the musician in the modern world. He thinks that musicians must think more artistically and try to change the world in which they perform:

Playing beautiful concerts is not the most important part of being a musician. What really counts is why we are artists, and what we can do to bring new important ideas to the surface. Our responsibility as artists is not only to provide entertainment. An artist has to change the world – I’m sorry if that sounds like a cliché, but I truly believe in it.

To Greilsammer, being an artist in classical music means bringing in new and young audiences. He wants to change the world by opening it up to what music has to offer; the creative element comes from new ideas and projects, exciting collaborations that create a concert experience no one has seen before. Although the conservative “museum” style approach to concerts is an established doctrine, it is possible to break free from this rut. Instead of going to a concert to hear the same pieces we’ve heard over and over again, going to a concert can be like going to a modern art gallery. We would go to see new sights, things that are unusual but, at the same time, things are affecting and beautiful. A concert can—and should—be a cultural experience, not a private club where the elite go to hear a selected canon of works over and over again. David Greilsammer is leading the way for a new generation of musicians, and personally I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

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2 Responses to Daily Bow: Who is the modern musician?

  1. Kyle August 9, 2012 at 5:52 am #

    I’d start from the ground up and vastly change the whole conservative conservatory (nomen omen) system. Why you can train to be a rock guitarist or jazz pianist starting at the age of 20+ but will be denied opportunity to become a classical violinist or composer or conductor if you didn’t have luck of parents enrolling you at the music lessons at an early age? It’s not the matter of different skill set having to develop by years of practice – not everyone must be a soloist or perform with top-level orchestra and not everyone develops in the same manner. But everyone should have a chance to choose this career path for themselves and try, without a horrible field prejudice and resistance against it. No genre can be sucessful if it’s built on such standarized, unfair and exclusive foundations.

    • Colin Cronin August 12, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

      Those are some great points Kyle. Thanks for sharing them with us. In general I’d like to agree with you, but “objectively” speaking (as much as humans can be), there are lots of studies and experiences that show that it tends to be more difficult for people to learn to be a classical musician after certain points of their life. Like learning a language, music is typically much easier for you to absorb when you are younger, at least in terms of the fundamentals. Some philosophies promote having the solid foundation for technique as early as 16-18, so that the later studies can be dedicated to the development of musicality and maturity.

      I definitely agree with you that age shouldn’t necessarily bar someone from the opportunity of learning classical music, and your point that not everyone will be aspiring to the top position in the (____) is key here. However, from the other side (the side of those giving the opportunity – teachers, schools, professional organizations, etc.) you have to understand that they have limited opportunities to provide and much choose. If you are making the decision to fill a certain number of slots, would you choose those who have trained their whole life to perfect the craft, or someone who is just starting out?

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