Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Coordination and The Over the Top

So I received my usual Lincoln Center summer concert brochure the other day and was struck by this awesome structure that had musicians sitting one on top of each other in rows and stacked side by side in columns in lit up box structures and was completely fascinated. I immediately had to see this production, "The Manganiyar Seduction".

After my initial excitement, I slowed down. What was so special about this concert? The fact that it was visually stunning? But, theatrically, can a stunt with flashing boxes really elevate this whole experience without substance? My hypothesis is this: that the music is probably great, but not necessarily enhanced by this visual structure. I think the flashing lights will probably drive me insane and I will be forced to conclude that I wish I had heard just the orchestra so I could really immerse myself in the music. I bought a ticket anyway with the scientific purpose of discovering if this would be true for myself or not, and I've been hearing such great reviews that I'm hoping dearly that my instinct is wrong on this one. I will report back later in September with said conclusion.

The same is true for this youtube clip I came across: 1,000 sitars and a great big bunch of tabla players. What was the use for all these sitars? You'd think that if you were going to use that many instruments you'd take a page out of orchestral music and introduce variation and complex instrumentation into the score and make use of their numbers.

Again, I'm forced to wonder if this is "a stunt without style" even though I find it entrancing to watch these hundreds of people in synchronization. It really was incredible to see close ups of the exacting coordination of the sitar players as their hands flew over the fret; playing this song that would sound the same musically if it were played by a six person orchestra using one set of drums, a vocalist, pianist, tabla player, violinist and sitar player.

So the question remains: why does the grand and big hold such wonder and amazement for us? Is rasa and spiritual experience being traded for entertainment in these endeavors or does the entertainment allow for a once in a lifetime experience? Will you remember how the music took you somewhere else after the show or only remember the lights flashing gaudily up at you? I am both incredibly motivated by such creativity and slightly hesitant. I guess this ambivalence remains in all the questions I ask.

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