I went to a great concert a few weeks ago, and as the conductor was taking his final bow, by a trick of the lighting, he suddenly had the appearance of a zombie. You know, dark eye sockets, greyed-out face . . . and my friend and I laughed it off. But whether it was because Hallowe’en was coming up, or some other reason, the notion of a zombie conductor stayed on my mind. And that led me to thinking about zombie musicians.
Those whom I am calling the zombie musicians are those proficient, established players who are quite content to play the same old renditions of the same old pieces. I fully understand the temptation; once you’ve achieved success or popularity, it’s almost impossible not to rest on your laurels. But musicians have the obligation to keep content fresh. With the availability of recorded music, few people will venture out to hear just another performance of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony or any other piece. The choice is either unfamiliar music, or familiar music that is interpreted differently from the mainstream.
Of the two choices, new interpretations strike me as being more difficult, and therefore, far more worthwhile. So for all you musicians, it’s time to come out of your comfort zone. If you want to give yet another conservative performance of a classic, you may find your audiences dwindling. Instead, pull out your score, analyze it, and look for something you had never noticed before. Find a few of those somethings, draw attention to them, and suddenly you’ve got something new and fresh, that will send your audience home to tell their friends that a piece as familiar to them as their own backyard suddenly seemed different and exciting. Then watch your audience grow!