It was several years ago that I was surprised to learn that a harpsichordist whom I wrote about in the context of a recording actually emailed me and started a dialog with me. That has happened more than once, and in the end I walked away satisfied that, "Yes, Virginia, someone is actually reading this thing."
In the context of having dialog with practicting professional musicians through my reviews, it also created a little discomfort knowing that my objectivity was very important as a "reviewer." I shouldn't knowingly write nice things knowing who was reading. And contrariwise, I had to be real honest in case I was going to be critical.
But blogs aside, is it appropriate, commonplace, or welcome for fans of music to converse with the artists? It seems a silly question, perhaps. I'd never imagine going to have a coffee with someone like Mick Jagger to talk about the music of the Rolling Stones. That's why'd you pick up a magazine and read an interview, perhaps, or tune-in on television. But does that expectation hold true for a baroque violinist, or a bassoonist who likes playing chamber music?
I imagine each artist is differnet. Some musicians may really like talking about the music and performance with "fans" and professionals. Others may hate it, either because of their own personal disposition, time commitment, or because they feel that crosses a line between performer and an audience. Those that teach, however, likely have to have that dialog with students and be able to support their performance decisions.
Occasionally, you'll read in liner notes a note from the performer, and maybe it will be called "My view from the podium," or "Performance Notes." I always love reading these, but wish they were a dialog rather than just a few details they were able to fit in to print. I'd love to know a lot from performers. Tons of questions... and I am guessing some of them would be of interest to fans. I am also taking a hunch that the best way to present this type of dialog (where it can't be between me and the musician) is through a YouTube video (no real page or time limit), we can see parts of the performance, and we might get to see competing ideas brought out in the discussion or demonstrations.
Here's the thing I'd love to be able to talk to a musician about, either in the context of a concert or new recording:
- What made you record this piece?
- What does it mean to you?
- Where did you have to make compromises?
- How did you come to an "interpretation?" What others might have worked?
- What kind of person are you? What other things are going on in your life right now?
- How do you know you're doing your best as an interpreter?
- Tell/show/convince me this is great music.
I'd encourage any musician today to seek out ways to dialog with us. Pre-concert lectures are great; talking about pieces before you play them, great; meeting with fans after a concert, great; writing your own blog, or making videos, great. Keeping a big head in check (maybe not like rock stars), also great...