I am always amazed with how the creative parts of our brains respond to music. Researchers say that the brain is a “pattern recognition machine.” My experience listening to last night’s ASO rehearsal is in complete support of this idea that our brains do create, respond to and recognize patterns. Music Director, Jose-Luis Novo, programed two works that come from like-region composers: Bartok Violin concerto No. 2, and Dvorak Symphony No. 6 in D Major, Op. 60. Both pieces spurred unique, creative and opposing images in my mind: one that was more free-form and continuously evolving; and one that was more pictorial, programmatic and realistic.
Let me share what I mean. From the start of the Bartok Violin Concerto I noticed a constant flowing and shifting of the music. Through all three movements I kept thinking: magical, mystical, ethereal, dreamy and dramatic. It wasn’t until the second movement that I termed this music as “kaleidoscope music.” Like the concerto, every turn of the “cylinder” created a new vision.
The music that entered my ears created ongoing patterns of color much like the light reflecting off the mirrors of a kaleidoscope. In fact, the derivative parts of the word kaleidoscope mean “observation of beautiful forms.” Quite the appropriate term for this music. There is no doubt that audiences will be mystified and awed. The soloist, Soovin Kim, has an extraordinary technique that matches the grueling accuracy needed to play such a difficult piece. His interpretation bridged the concepts of music and creative brain patterns.
An event to note during the rehearsal of the Bartok: a pink balloon and was floating in and out of the stage lights right above the heads of the musicians. It seemed deliberately planned as a visual representation of the music: as magical and mysterious as the violin concerto was, so too was the appearance and movement of this pink balloon – until it popped!
The Dvorak created a related yet different mental image. I found the Symphony in D Major to be very image-inducing like the Bartok. The difference being that it is much more programmatic and pictorial, almost like it were telling a story of folk life. I found myself more able to create a story with the symphony than with the concerto. The melodies were more memorable and lighthearted, and it was a nice contrast to the Bartok.
I am grateful for this brief trip to the land of Bartok and Dvorak. The imagery that resulted from listening to these great works was truly brain-stimulating. I was able to create patterns, light, color, landscape and story all from the way my brain responded to this wonderful music. I look forward to my next “reflection” with the ASO.