Recently, Chamber Music America released a short promotional video under the title “Why Chamber Music?” After watching it I felt compelled to add my point of view:
Why Chamber music?
Because chamber music is a unique reflection of life experience. It powerfully illuminates a universal tension between personal agency and one’s role in a larger group. It is also perhaps one of the most life affirming and hopeful art forms, because it shows how something greater than sum of individual parts can be produced through collaboration of willing parties without coercion or competition.
Because it has an unusual emotional impact. The close proximity to masterfully played musical instruments offers a uniquely rich narrative communicated in tremendous variety of timbres, articulation and timing. In contemporary large concert halls most of these nuances get lost across vast distances separating performers from listeners, while most of chamber music venues provide a real sense of intimacy and closeness to the musicians. Large scale opera production, swiping orchestral performance or exuberant dance show can dazzle audience like a large festive gathering, while chamber music concert can feel similar to a dinner with a few close friends, where conversation touches on some deeply personal topics.
Because of the unique quality of musical conversation. Witnessing a spontaneous non-verbal communication between musicians, who spend years refining their ability to respond, lead and follow, can be as fascinating as watching a few great actors truly inhabit their characters in a small black box theater.
Because active attentive listening to a great live performance can bring to the surface some really deep feelings, memories and forgotten experiences. There is a great opportunity in letting a composition like Schubert’s String Quintet to take over our internal space for an hour and suspend the running conversation. Honest openness to music that not only comforts, but challenges and sometimes unsettles makes every moment infinitely richer.
Because it is a treat which, like chocolate, was once accessible to select few, and now is a source of pleasure available to almost anyone. An art form born out of great composers’ attempts to meet demand of bored aristocracy for a pleasant pastime quickly became an experimental medium for musical ideas and forms, as well as vehicle for deeply personal messages.