Friday, November 30, 2007

Conduct This

The Kids Got Energy, Now Watch Him Conduct - Conduct? Clockwise from top left -1. Swish, three points at the buzzer; 2. Local Youth Takes Fourth Place in Air Guitar Competition; 3. Well Done Class, Now the Plie; 4. My Afro Always Flies When I'm Groovin To The Temps.

Venezuelan prodigy Gustavo Dudamel makes his debut with the New York Philharmonic this week. What does a conductor really do anyway? Of course he leads the orchestra in rehearsal, including pauses for specific instruction -where the 26 year old Dudamel's "comments focused largely on color and character". I'm sure the venerable stars of the NY Philharmonic appreciate this - "give me green, no bluer, bluer, that's it almost aqua - now mean, meaner, downright nasty - that's it, fantastico." Maybe it's not that easy to get to fantastico, “Do you want higher, lower, what?” a percussionist asked with a slight tone of exasperation. “Something different,” Mr. Dudamel said, “but not keys.” (Laughter.) Something different - thanks a lot kid, I'd like you to hear something different, bend down so your head is right next to this gong.

And then, of course, there's game day. The conductor cues the orchestra so they start in unison. By game time the orchestra pretty much knows the score, but the conductor might coax a little emphasis here, tweak the timing there. In the case of the NY Philharmonic, I suspect they will be on their own once Mr. Dudamel strikes up the band. Most of these players have been at the top of their game since before Dudamel was born. If they look to his energetic gyration for direction while in concert, they risk bursting out in either laughter or tears.

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