Tuesday, June 14, 2005


At breakfast this morning a colleague said to me:

"Equality will have arrived when incompetent women are placed in positions of power and influence"

Luckily I am amongst extraordinary musicians during these weeks for all of whom - men and women, whether first, seconds or nineteenths - the music is the motor, not the ego. I sat down in the pit yesterday feeling warm, welcomed and ready, along with my fellow music makers, to be a worker ant for the sake of Rameau.

This atmosphere is rare and more often than not it is more like this:

He is charming as you take your place next to him as second cello. He pours on to you three lavish bisoux and a deep blue smile in which, if you were a little more fragile, you would drown instantly.

Your leader has warmed up on the concerti he will never play and is concentrating hard, on the f-holes of his cello and the series of quavers qnd crotchets in first position that constitute the score; on his job. After all he has a family to support and he can't afford to lose his job. Especially not to a woman. He grips his bow even tighter and holds his breath. Phrases are angular and accents are falling wherever they choose. Without the grease of arrogance the cogs would not move at all.

Having given up on their number one, people are inviting you, the number two, in to the music as their life-line to the bass. For the sake of the music you have no choice but to respond. The conductor notices you are breathing in with him, your bow arm moving on his exhalation; a violist enjoys your shared sensuous glance as you rise together in thirds; the principal violin is clearly relieved to have her knotty line buoyed up by your bounce.....

Then, following a subtle gesture from the conductor, the violins take an unexpected turn, paint a daring new path through the melody. Your body simply follows, teasing the line into new harmonic colour. The middle voices take up the thread with rhythmic humour and the music comes alive, riding on the saddle of the moment.

Suddenly you panic. You have, of course, gone too far. You forgot that your job is to stick by the concrete mixer at your side, slather vibrato inappropriately all over the harmonies and bump the resolutions from which everyone else is delicately tapering away....Above all your job is to be less alive than he so he feels in control. Your job, in fact, is to die inside. You are not allowed out to play with the other children and, though he is following no-one but his own demons, your job is to follow him.

One day, after performance number four, he simply says to you:

"Tu cherches trop"

This accusation of searching too hard constitute the last words he speaks to you. The bisoux and the deep blue smile disappear (not that they were in the slightest bit necessary) and he shuts you out completely.

You are never hired again.

I have never seen 'The Office'. I would like to. I can't imagine, apart from in Mulhouse today, that politics in the music world are much different.


Blogger Jean said...

Yup, that sounds like just about any kind of team work... is it human nature, or something one can or should challenge? I've taken both lines and both have sometimes worked and sometimes not. All the more poignant in the cause of beauty. It does help with these things to have someone express it as well as you do.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

What Jean said.

12:19 PM  

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