Sunday, May 15, 2011

Trying to culture this pearl

When you're an engineer, there's not a lot of room in the toolbox for the fine arts. But I greatly appreciate those who are part of the fine arts because they have creativity that I can only fantasize about having. My favorite modern-day artist is Michael Flohr and I had the chance to meet him last year and observe him painting in real-time. To take an idea from your head and translate it to a canvas via the medium of gessoed oil paints is a gift that I will never possess.

Even more of a distance away on the spectrum of "things DBS can never do" is being a musician in a classical orchestra. Last night my brother-in-law got DB~, myself, and my parents tickets to join he and my sister at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performance. They were performing three separate pieces: one was a modern piece called Stroke by a composer named Joan Tower, the second was a series of four pieces from Mozart, and the third act was three pieces by Beethoven.

Joan Tower was wrapping up her year in residency at PSO with Stroke, which was a piece about her brother having a stroke three years and his life changing due to his paralysis. It had tympanies and bass providing a slow heartbeat, with periodic rapid crescendos symbolizing the rapid flow of blood, then downbeat solos to represent the actual stroke. It was a very personal and moving piece for her and it must have been a thrill to hear an orchestra perform it in front of an audience.

I'm not a classical music afficianado at all, but the skill level of the PSO was outstanding. I found myself just watching individual musicians and then watching entire sections of instruments, like the 12 violinists in the first chair section on the left, then the 10 violinists in the second chair section on the right. I wondered about the group dynamics and how much professional jealousy must exist among the prima donna position of violin. I watched the percussion section play 10 notes and then sit back with rapt attention the rest of the piece.

Especially during the Mozart and Beethoven pieces, you really appreciate how the string sections all move their bows in unison. Everyone has to be on the same page or it doesn't work at all. You can't say that about most professions. Most people will approach a problem in different ways and still be able to solve it correctly. But when you play a piece of classical music that is over 200 plus years old, there is only way to do it or it will be noticeably wrong.

I found myself wondering about how much the first chair violinist makes and then wondering how much the "lowest" violinist in the 2nd chair makes. Their lives are 180 degrees different than mine in terms of their work day, but we still both eat out at great restaurants, have families we share time with, people we love, and go shopping at grocery stores. It seems as if they live glamorous lives, but I'm sure they get burned out at times, too.

I respect anyone who is at the top of their game. I'm sure there are orchestras performing at an even higher level than the PSO, but to my untrained ear they sure are great. Tip of the cap to being in the presence of an art form that I usually don't talk about or get a chance to enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. I'm doing this: Salary Cap Fantasy Orchestra League.

    Violinist are the RBs, there aren't very many great ones, but everyone will try and grab at least two of even the merely "good" ones in the first three rounds.

    The Brass Sectioners are the WRs. The really great ones can easily be more valuable than the Violinist, but they're harder to project from year to year.

    The Flautist are your QBs. There aren't that many elite options, but there's still a decent pool of startable talent since you typically only need one. (Plus, puds like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady totally seem like they'd choose the piccolo if they were in the high school band).

    Your TEs would be the Percussionists. There's probably only five worth owning, but everyone has to draft a couple anyway.

    "With the initial pick in round one, the Shockwave d'Fortissimo selects....Niccolo Paganini, University of Genoa Fightin' Campofregosos" *championship*