< Back to front page Text size +

Orchestra conductors: useful after all?

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  July 24, 2013 10:46 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

conductor.jpeg
It's one of those great low-level mysteries: Do orchestra conductors actually do anything? According to a review in the British magazine The Spectator of a new book called "Inside Conducting," the answer is yes- but not necessarily what you might think.

The book's author, Christopher Seaman, teaches conducting at the Guildhall School of Music in London, and intends the book as a how-to for aspiring conductors. Seaman describes conducting in mystical terms, making it out to be less like instructing a child on how to hit a baseball, and more like encouraging a friend that he's a good person and deserves to be happy in life. He writes, "Your whole personality (especially your face and eyes) has to give the sense of assurance and expectancy that inspires an orchestra to play." When performing "For Unto Us a Child is Born," from Handel's "Messiah," Seaman writes that he urges his sopranos to fix their expressions like "happy midwives," which he says inevitably "brightens" their sound.

Seaman also suggests that the conductor plays an important role mediating between the orchestra and the audience. He describes the conductor as the "artistic conscience" of the orchestra, seeming to suggest that the conductor translates through his gestures, the note-by-note precision and concentration of the players into an immersive artistic experience for the listeners.

Via The Browser.

Image of orchestra conductor Zubin Mehta courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

 
About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
contributors
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

archives

Browse this blog

by category