Music should be compelling. It should be fascinating, spellbinding.
For me this happens when music relates to our lives – our memories, our hopes, our fears.
I call this Connected Interpretation.
Connected Interpretation means involving audiences in the creation of vital performances alive with the energy of today.
How does it work?
We can change how we play a piece of music. We can make it breathlessly fast or it can be tense with suppressed excitement, we can make it wistfully soft or bitterly soft, we can make it flow nobly or impulsively.
And it is the conductor who shapes many of these decisions – it is actually a sort of collaboration with the other musicians.
Connected Interpretation is how I try to make these decisions so that we play the music in a compelling way; in a way that is relevant to our lives.
This means that I consciously try to create unique performances for each place and audience. It also means that I want audiences to talk to me, to tell me if they agreed or not with how I chose to present the music, and to share ideas with me.
There are four steps.
1. First of all I must know the music in depth: I need to understand the ideas that the composer wanted to share.
2. After that I look for how those ideas are still alive today. For example, who do we think is a hero today (the third symphony of Beethoven), what forces seem overpowering to us (Don Giovanni of Mozart) or what are our most magical experiences (The Beautiful Blue Danube of Strauss). I might ask people to give me their ideas on these things.
3. Then I figure out how these ideas relate to the music and how they will influence the way we play. For example, if we think that our heroes struggle grimly against life then we might play with a cold, grey tone and a grinding, unrelenting sense of rhythm. If instead we think that our heroes inspire and unite us then perhaps we will play more warmly and let the music draw us in with its ebb and flow.
4. Finally I work out how to communicate these ideas to the other musicians in my conducting.
European concepts form the basis for approaching interpretation in this way, in particular musical semiotics (such as in the work of Raymond Monelle and Robert Samuels), an extension of the work of semioticians such as Saussure and Barthes. I have also been highly influenced by the work of Dutch cultural theorist Mieke Bal on how each person creates their own meaning for a work of art.