Friday, July 12, 2013

Melodies floating in the summer air

Thursday evening I attended a concert in the former royal courtyard of the Hofburg in Innsbruck. Performing was the German Air Force band from Münster. I would estimate the crowd at about 500 strong with many standing around the edges.

At first I was reluctant to attend, because memories from my school years of playing the dreaded Sousa marches started to surface. However, faced with the other option of simply returning to our lodging and doing nothing, I chose to stay in the city after dinner and hear the band. After all, it was free to the public, so no harm, no foul.

Shame on me! The band was absolutely fantastic! The director was vivacious and spoke in between pieces with short anedotes about the music selections. The players were focused and played at a high level of proficiency. I particularly paid attention to the clarinet section, being a reformed clarinetist myself, and was especially impressed by their ability to "cross the bridge" and to hit those notes that dangle far above the music lines. The band even performed a piece written by Mendelssohn just for clarinets. It was superb. 

The program consisted of several traditional pieces including Beethoven, Grétry, Weber, and Fabry. The part of the whole program that impressed me the most, however, was the piece called Bacchanale by Rolf Rudin, a German composer, who was also in attendence at the concert with us. I was completely blown away by its modern perspective and elegance. In this case, art inspires life! Listening to this contemporary piece in the middle of so many classics renewed my interest in this musical genre. It might be time for me to slow down on the Justin Timberlake and revisit some Mahler or Brahms. Oh, JT...

Or does life inspire art? I spent Thursday morning listening to a presentation called "Muscial Journeys through Austria" put on by instructor from the Mozarteum University in Salzburg. The focus of his talk was to look at how travel inspired many Austrian composers and lyricists. One example of this can been seen in Mozart's biography. One of his most famous and popular pieces is the Ave verum corpus for choir, orchestra, and organ. He wrote this piece while visiting his wife during the summer at a spa resort outside of Vienna. It was written quickly almost like an idea doodled on a cocktail napkin at a beach restaurant. 

It has also been calculated that Mozart spent a third of his life in a coach while traveling from one location to another. Watching the world pass by from a window, constantly meeting new people, eating all kinds of new foods, sleeping in strange hotels, hearing foreign languages in your ears has to have an effect on a person's work and way of thinking. I can close my eyes and imagine that I am experiencing the same thing myself. I constantly carry around a green notebook, so that I can jot down ideas for classroom activities that pop into my head while listening to seminar presenters, sitting in cafes tasting new dishes, or gazing out from the veranda of the hotel at the mountains as they change their faces every hour putting on clouds and then taking them off as they shimmer in the summer sunshine.

Or maybe art does inspire life? Our Mozarteum instructor played a piece from an Austrian musician named Hubert von Goisern circa 2003. It was a little bit country, a little bit folk music, while all at the same time Austrian in language. I could use that in the classroom for sure! Or maybe that avant-garde poem by Gerhard Rühm that we also heard? That would absolutely work in German 1!  I hope that I can keep up with all of my scribbles when I get home.

Here in the summery mountains of Austria, the melodies and creative ideas fly around so much, that one must take great care, so as not to stumble or squash a single one. 

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