In last Friday’s class we welcomed, as guest speaker, Dr. Charles Barber, Artistic Director and Conductor of City Opera Vancouver. An extremely engaging individual, Dr. Barber touched on the following points (among others):
- Developing the art/skill of asking deep, probing questions
- Importance of a unique vision, instead of imitating
- Forging ahead without permission, seeking those with the power to say “yes” avoiding those who would likely say “no” (because of lack of power to say “yes”)
- Striving for objectivity: “if nobody shows, maybe it’s crap”
- Leonard Bernstein (conductor) communicating and embodying his passion
Dr. Barber’s talk prompted the following thoughts (among others!):
I thought about the importance of having (and focusing on) a passion to transmit to others, who will respond favourably (e.g. audience) or respond and behave in a similar way (e.g. collaboration). This collective energy is then transmitted to an audience.
I thought about the phenomenon of comparing “musical” performances or performers with those who are not so musical but may be technically superior. Something falls flat in such a performance, perhaps, because the musician’s passion is not being transmitted successfully (if it’s indeed there at all). An experience of such passion often transcends or obscures the technical flaws. Often, a passionate, musical performance is preferred over a technically superior one.
I was reminded of the passage in Creativity Inc. when Catmull described showing an unfinished film where the audience responded favourably and where several remarked they hadn’t noticed the flaws or omissions basically because the story-telling was effective. People were taken in by the resonance of the narrative – the emotional gravity of the piece. The emotional gravity in a good story, for example, is equivalent to or analogous to the emotional gravity of a visual art piece or a piece of music.
In the case of performance art, it is the performer’s job to transmit the emotional gravity – to embody this, if you will. A successful performer captures the emotional gravity, embodies it and transmits it to an audience. If nothing else, the receiver “gets this” – it’s a primary response at the sub-conscious level, even before people can articulate for themselves a more concret meaning.