Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Something to shake a stick at

There's the final of the BBC's show Maestro on at the moment, and I can't watch it because the sight of a bunch of 'celebrities' trying to conduct the BBC concert orchestra just makes me laugh too much.

It's part of a wider problem I have with the idea of conductors. These celebrities are going up there, conducting with varying degrees of vigour and skill, and it isn't making one iota of difference to the sound being produced by the orchestra. Given that, it seems monstrously unfair that conductors should gain the accolades they do for something that could be taken by the uninitiated as some bizarre form of interpretative dance.

Maybe it's just that I'm used to forms of music where the groups are never large enough, or indeed drummerless enough, to require a baton twirler. I've only worked with a conductor once, and that's when my school choir was one of half a dozen or so taking part in an episode of Songs of Praise. I don't remember them being much use then either.

I'm sure they do something important, but surely not so important that they should get more attention than the musicians. After all, everyone who plays in a renowned orchestra like the BBC concert will possess practically virtuoso level skills on their instrument, achieved through years of practise. It annoys me that someone whose main function could be replaced by a metronome is more important than that. (yes I'm sure they do more. I'm just not sure what.)

It's just that, with jazz (the only other genre that uses bands that large I can think of off the top of my head) orchestras often get on perfectly well with a leader who is also playing. Presumably they're too busy to wave a stick as well, so it must be possible for an orchestra to do perfectly well without. Not that I'm ever likely to find out. Almost everything I've ever done musically has been geared towards having as few musicians as possible. Mostly, that means shoving everything on one guitar, or maybe having two or three instruments at most. All you need there is for everyone to be paying some kind of attention.

No comments: