Sound Goes Further

I have struggled recently to have a clear vision of where I want my future as a musician to lead. Thinking about it in too much detail or analysing why it means something to me appears to be a frustrating and hopeless endeavour. I don’t play music with my mind and therefore find it futile to use my mind to figure things out. Putting this into words is proving harder than I thought! I suppose in simple terms, I am discovering that music and sound goes beyond the instrument I play, though realising this makes practical musician life difficult.

I recently read an interview of the cellist Rostropovich in which he explained his relationship with the cello,

‘My mind, even at that age, was geared towards Romantic symphonic music, not cello music. My interest has always been in the large scale repertoire and that’s the sound I’ve always had in my head, not the cello sound. My “big sound” concept on the cello therefore came from my desire for a more orchestral scale projection. I don’t hear a cello sound when I play, I hear an orchestra. I never tried to copy another cellist’s sound.’

Reading this, I felt Rostropovich close to me and my struggles. I have never really seen myself as a cellist either, nor making a ‘cello’ sound. I’ve always been fundamentally confused when people have remarked, “you’re so lucky to play the cello” or “the cello is a beautiful instrument”. Objectively, yes, I agree with both statements, but neither explain much about I feel towards the cello. I know that I don’t want a ‘cello sound’ or to be seen as a ‘cellist’. This still leaves me unsure about how to progress from here, I know little about creating the sounds I want, but do know I want them to be different.

Maybe my ultimate goal as a musician is to take people beyond my instrument, to live beyond it’s constraints and refrain from identifying with it. We often forget that the box we use to communicate is a miracle. We create emotion, change and vast curvatures of sound out of something so physically rigid. Understandable, perhaps, that we can struggle to create what we desire from it. Alongside this come the practicalities of living in this ‘industry’ and feeling under pressure to perform ‘on your instrument’. Change, growth and freedom are difficult to stick by when opportunities that arise often force you, time and time again, to stick with what you know and play something to the highest technical standard in order to impress, maybe, or to succeed.

I think being aware of the miracle of turning something rigid into something flowing can change the way we look at music performance. Be in awe of anything you create because it holds so much miraculous power. Just as when you might see a aeroplane on the ground, approach it and be astounded that it floats in the air. Something so heavy and rambunctious as an aeroplane can actually leave the earth and fly just as something rigid, bulky and solid as a cello, piano, violin, flute, etc can take us to a land of absolute antonyms.

I know I don’t consider this phenomenon enough.

mary oliver


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