People often ask performers “What goes through your head when you are playing music?”
Great music has the ability to open up vivid images in the brain. To help the listener (and therefore the performer as well, as they are also listening) take their mind somewhere it wouldn’t have gone on its own.
I’m not just talking about classical music, this happens in other genres as well. Earlier this year whilst playing in the backing band (MSO) for Nick Cave I had an extraordinary experience of complete exhilaration and immersion in the music. There was simply no escaping the passion!
Being honest, it is possible while playing an instrument to mentally prepare the dinner, make a shopping list and worry about the milk that has been left out. The same way that once one has mastered driving, it is possible to get from A to B without really knowing how.
That is why, when playing with a musician like Dmitry Onishchenko, it is like taking a drive through spectacular scenery, with twists and turns and breathtaking views.
We have been rehearsing Shostakovich’s piano quintet and Ian Munro’s Divertissement sur le nom d’Erik Satie for a week and I can confess that my household has suffered. Dinner has been ad hoc, and there was no porridge this morning, which meant we didn’t need the milk that I had put in the cupboard (rather than the fridge).
Dmitry’s imagery of these pieces is personal, profound and delightfully intuitive:
“This music is very mechanical. In Russia, this was a wonderful thing. To be in a working factory was to be proud, it was a very optimistic image.”
“I imagine here that there is a man having cut his wrists, and the blood is dripping on the floor rhythmically. He is looking at the sun and feeling the sun on his face.”
“I hear this waltz as the opening of a show, and when I enter, the curtains go up.”
“In Russia, there was positive music piped into the streets. Everyone was scared but they had to pretend to be incredibly optimistic. There is always the other feeling here. Not just a happy face.”
Our rehearsals have seemed more like we are curating an exhibition than preparing a concert as we all got in on the act…
“Here! I found that image from Monet’s cathedral.”
“This movement sounds like we are walking alone through the snow… “
“I always imagine a factory worker here who is drunk, but desperately trying appear sober as he operates heavy machinery…”
These rehearsals have reminded me that when we hear music like this, our brains, souls and complete wellbeing are revitalised. Especially when it is played by someone of the spirit of Dmitry.
It is up to the listener how you hear the music and what images are created in your mind, but one thing is for sure, I suspect these upcoming concerts with Dmitry are going to be like visiting the Louvre!