I just got home from a performance of one of my favourite operas.
Tempos were generally slower than I’m used to. I felt the conductor was trying to milk every drop of emotion out of every sweet spot. Critics might have called it an indulgent performance. I wasn’t moved. But that’s not my point.
A sweet spot could be a number of different things. It could be a tempo, a melody, a groove, a climax, a note, or a chord. Anything that gives you thatfeeling.
We can’t get enough of the sweet spots. So it’s only natural to indulge in them. We’ll take these powerful moments and emphasize them somehow in our own performances. I thought that the conductor I heard tonight was slowing down and dragging out every melodic climax and sweet spot to the point of over emphasis and over indulgence. Again, I didn’t enjoy it, but there were other members of audience so moved that they couldn’t hold back the tears.
The interesting part:
In that audience was the next generation of listeners and performers, moved to tears from those emphasized and indulged sweet spots. What will theirperformances sound like? As I sat listening, I began to imagine the performance history of this opera. I heard a lineage of over-indulged indulgences. What about the next generation? When this opera is performed 100 years from now, how slow will those sweet spots be?
Who knows…. But this raises some interesting points about the performing lineage of classic, timeless works. I would argue that studying pieces of music to perform them as it was originally performed is a futile task. They’re inevitably going to change with the rest of us!