When Paavo Järvi was in town last month conducting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, I asked him “what is music?” He proceeded to tell me that “music communicates without the necessity of words” and that “talk takes away from music.” While emphasizing that opera and songs are not inferior art forms in comparison to instrumental music, he explained that “instrumental music gets inside” you like no other type of music. A slow movement of a Mahler symphony or a Mozart piano concerto or Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise: these are examples he provided of music that really move your soul. In relation to modern times, he pointed out that “music videos take all imagination away [not allowing people] to think for themselves.”
We often times play performances by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers on air. The day following my chat with Paavo, I also had the privilege to see how Ms. Meyer’s defines “music.”
“Music is everything. It’s life, it’s heart, it’s soul, it’s beauty, it’s why we live.” What a beautiful definition! When asked what modern composer stretches her perception of music, Ms. Meyers responded “Arvo Pärt.” Recently, she has devoted much time to his Passacaglias that appear on her new album.
Ms. Meyers went on to say that her favorite living composer to perform would be Mason Bates, specifically his Violin Concerto.
You’ve had a week to ponder music. So what is music to you? Beethoven, Brahms, Stravinsky? Or the sound of thunder, a gentle breeze, or a familiar laugh? There is no wrong answer...I'd love to hear your thoughts!