I thought I was done spotlighting good writing for the day, but then I came across “Equality“, Ruth Phillips’ exploration of the orchestra section dynamic. I hesitate to call it a “description”, because it’s far more than that. It’s vibrant imagery that is one with the emotion it expresses. It’s a true vignette.
Having given up on their number one, people are inviting you, the number two, in to the music as their life-line to the bass. For the sake of the music you have no choice but to respond. The conductor notices you are breathing in with him, your bow arm moving on his exhgalation; a violist enjoys your shared sensuous glance as you rise together in thirds; the principal violin is clearly relieved to have her knotty line buoyed up by your bounce…..
Then, following a subtle gesture from the conductor, the violins take an unexpected turn, paint a daring new path through the melody. Your body simply follws, teasing the line into new harmonic colour. The middle voices take up the thread with a rhythmic joke and the music comes alive, riding on the moment.
Suddenly you panic. You have, of course, gone too far. You forgot that your job is to stick by the concrete mixer at your side, slather vibrato inappropriately all over the harmonies and bump the resolutions from which everyone else is delicately tapering away….Above all your job is to be less alive than he so he feels in control. Your job, in fact, is to die inside. You are not allowed out to play with the other children and, though he is following no-one but his own demons, your job is to follow him.