• B.E.

Art... Altruism... Art-truism...?

Updated: Dec 25, 2018

8:19 pm, the day before the flight to Prague


And so begins the next leg of the journey:  touring with BPYO (Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra), chaperoning, playing a little (practicing LOTS, with new Frøydis ideas).  The last time I was in Prague was in 2012, when I attended the Ameropa Chamber Music Festival and Horn Class with the wonderful Jiri Havlik, so I'm greatly looking forward to being in the land of AMAZING cheap beer again (yeah, yeah, brass stereotypes, get it out now).



This is a bit of what went on last time I was in Prague.  Super fun group playing Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for winds, K 297b.  This video is of us playing at the International Concertante Competition help at Ameropa in 2012.  We took second place - this is the final performance in Dvorak Hall, Rudolfinum.  (Sorry for the camera work - someone was a little... excited.)


To elaborate on Frøydis ideas:


legato playing - true, singing legato, thinking of the walking analogy or sleeve analogy - it's a transition where all the elements of horn playing have to change at the exact same time, seamless notes, unending notes, especially undying notes and relentless (appropriate) energy


emoting - really milking it for all it's worth, being so freaking present that nothing else exists, yet you're in a heightened state of awareness (a meditation of sorts), settling for nothing less, always being on "that level"


European fingerings, aka, what makes more sense - nothin' but B horn all the way out from here, baby (sorry, F devotees)


This visit really has me contemplating a move to Europe.  I've often toyed with the idea, but in the past have been too chicken or the timing wasn't right or whatever the excuse you want to give yourself for such a big change.  I think the time is NOW (thanks, Ram Dass), and I should really explore the amazing options Frøydis presented me with.

Frøydis and I

About Frøydis's teaching:


If you've ever contemplated making the horn pilgrimage, all I can say is, why isn't your ticket to Oslo booked yet?  Yes, it's expensive; yes, it's a journey; yes, you'll have to face the horn demons; but never in my life have I had such amazing sound and playing coming out of my bell as when I play for her.  Truly.  She does this amazing dance, almost bewitching the sound into the highest version of itself, to get you to play better, and IT WORKS.  (One of her many pedagogical tools.)  I'm sure this is old news to most of the horn world who has had masterclasses and lessons with her, but to my generation of hornists, I highly highly HIGHLY recommend a journey to horn mecca here in Oslo, if not at least finding a teacher who can do for you what she has done for me and soooo much of the horn world (you'll learn a good bit about gardening, too ;) ).


With her, it's almost this return to the "old way" of music - we Americans are often accused of just needing to get notes right to win auditions, the music comes in the later rounds - and of course there's truth to those ideas, but I am a firm believer in emoting allowing you to play more accurately rather than playing more accurately and then trying to sprinkle in some passion.  Passion is all but dead in a society that doesn't support the arts, our jobs as musicians, and a very real, palpable fear settles in.  Will I ever get a job?  How can I get a job when orchestras are folding all over the place?  How am I ever to pay off this debt? and other destructive thinking (practical some might say, but I see living in this stress of fear of livelihood as ultimately destructive) completely takes over the culture.  Some win big jobs, most are piecing their lives together (freelancing), and for a lot of people, it seems to work.  Then there are those who "give up the dream," because it's just too hard and the joy is gone.  To passionately pursue music, to truly believe that working hard will get you a job someday, is all but dead from what I've seen in America.  Any joy in music now is from competition.  Earning money, livelihood, being a success.


Yes, I'm painting with a rather broad brush, but again, this is just my experience with interactions and schools of thought I've encountered.  Please add your voice to the dialogue as I'd love to be convinced otherwise that music in American is not widely fear-driven.


seen waiting for the 19 in Majorstuen

(to go down the rabbit hole further:)


On "Entrepreneurial Spirit" in American Musicians:


Most of my friends are either in an orchestra that was formed in the past two years, or they themselves have formed a new orchestra.  Speaking with horn players in Oslo, where living is comfortable and this capitalism/socialism mix is producing the happiest people in the world, creating your own orchestra is unheard of.  Unnecessary.  There are so many gigs.  Why go to the trouble?  20.  There are 20 full-time freelancing hornists in Oslo.  "A lot," my source said.  Boston?  Let's not even get into how many hornists are in Boston, nevertheless how many MUSICIANS.  And this is what makes Boston a fascinating place, yet if you're not getting the gigs because NEC/BoCo/BU grads from years past stayed in the area, the number of hornists just keeps getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger… your chances smaller and smaller.  Unless you have amazing tenacity and stick it through (which is freelancing anywhere, fuck it, which is MUSIC, but people, you heard the man - TWENTY).


And even if you're not one of the 20 full-time freelancers in Oslo or one of the members of the orchestras here, you could make a living working at a fast food restaurant.  I hate to add to the overuse of the fast-food industry job comparison, but in this case, you could happily make a living supplementing whatever gigs come your way with part-time employment and not feel like you're barely scraping by.  Because Norway seems to care for their people.  Because Norway recognizes that people have inherent rights to pursue happiness.  Where have I heard that before?  Hmmmmmmm...


Contrast: graffiti + ruins, Old Town

A little overview of the vibe in Norway:


Respect.  It all comes down to respect.  There is this underlying current of respect and idea of helping your neighbor.  While you have all the rights in the world to pursue the "I" part of life, there is a very strong "we" in the general amounts of respect people have, towards each other, towards public transportation vehicles, towards buildings, towards everything.  The trams are nice.  All of them.  As I mentioned in my previous article, it feels like a freaking megabus, not some graffitied, dirtied, trashed public transportation bus in Boston.  People smile back if you smile at them.  They help one another.  Baby carriages, on and off the T, offering seats to elderly, making room for you if you pass near them.  All just common acts of courtesy I somewhat had beat out of me in my move from the Midwest to Boston.


And the thing is, a part of my really likes the independent, wild, raw spirit that America has.  That "fuck you" attitude where things don't matter and life goes on.  But a part of me really likes this national embodiment of liberté, égalité, fraternité, as seen in front of the National Museum of Art in Oslo (yes, on the JCDecaux toilets).  People give a shit.  (Literally, in this case.)  Altruism.  It's crazy to witness, but inspiring, and sometimes even eery.  "This exists?  Really?  Not just in hippie communes or small communities?"  Yes.  And it really can exist anywhere.


Because this is where it comes together, right?  This idea of compassion, altruism, radiating throughout a culture.  Helping one another, therefore creating happy people, therefore creating time to enjoy life, therefore people filling their time meaningful and artistic endeavors, therefore making art jobs a real thing, and then the cycle of happiness continues.  What an awful cycle, huh?  Basic human rights being covered so people can actually have time to enjoy life and the many perspectives (art) it has to offer?  Who wants an educated, free-thinking, creative society of individuals?  Nah, I'd rather opt for the corporate slave…  (Yeah, I went there.  No-pants-dance-off going on here.  Full dis-clothes-ure.)


Soapbox, dismount!  More soon…  :)

© 2020 by Breanna Ellison