What is music?

That sounds like such a vague, stupid question to ask, but I love Krystian Zimerman’s (whose name I always manage to spell wrong) description of how music is more than just sound. Watch, listen and enjoy. 
Aside from Zimerman’s incredible talent, and his incredible musicality, he has a really nice voice (not to mention the beautiful Schubert impromptu in the background). I have featured his performance of a Chopin ballade here, and he is truly a musician and artist of the highest order, and therefore, as you will see, incredibly in touch with his craft. 
He makes a wonderful point about the ‘spirituality’ of music [my word, not his], the interpretation not only by the performer, but the attitude behind it and the interpretation of the actual instrument being played. 
He also addresses the plethora of other factors involved in a performance. He uses an anecdote about practicing Lutosławksi’s piano concerto that he wrote for Zimerman as an example, with the ‘wahs’ in the piece. Just listen to him tell it.
But when you take into consideration that Beethoven and Mozart and Brahms and Chopin

and Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev were all practicing and writing on their own instruments (perhaps among others), Mahler wrote dynamics and orchestration specifically to be heard in the Musikverein, then that music becomes so contextual. THAT hall with THAT temperature, THAT performer, THAT conductor, THAT day, THAT mood (personal, religious, political, economical), then non-musical things become musical (or at least influence the music). I don’t want to start to sound metaphysical or like we’re dowsing for music or anything, but he’s right. Again, just listen to him explain it. It is one of the most beautiful statements I’ve heard lately.

He also addresses the issue of experience and youth and the general approach to music and how even without that deep, super observant, connected view of a piece, one can still play it beautifully. But does that connectedness make a difference on some other level? And… connectedness to what? This all sounds terribly hocus-pocus when I say it, but I can’t help but listen to his calm, confident expression and be fascinated. 

Something less abstract in this is his description of (and I assume he just pulled these two names out, but there are plenty that would have worked) Chopin and Prokofiev. He described an “adequate” performance of Chopin as being beautiful, but that an adequate (or perhaps accurate, but that’s my word, not his) playing of Prokofiev’s music might not be beautiful. It may come as a shock to some that not all music is meant to be beautiful. Some is meant to be loud, or crashing, or scary, or painful, or uncomfortable or nightmarish. It’s just at another place on the emotional spectrum of all the things that music makes us feel and think about. This interview made me think about a LOT, but honestly, there’s not anything I can add to what he said, only further questions I can ask that his insights have prompted. But if there were no more questions, then things wouldn’t be very fun, would they?

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