Exploring the strange craft, and profession, of conducting

Posted on: June 5, 2012

In Friday’s (6/1) Guardian (London), Tom Service, in anticipation of the June 7 release of his new book Music As Alchemy, writes, “The first concert of orchestral music I ever went to—I was seven—introduced me to Mozart, his 29th Symphony in A major, K 201, a piece that opened up some place of resonance and meaning that I’ve been exploring ever since. But it also introduced me to the strangest profession in musical culture. Who was this person with a white stick in his right hand, without whom the music could not come to life? … The mystery of the conductor, what he did—and it almost always was a he when I was growing up in Glasgow—and what effect the somehow significant semaphore that the baton carved in the air had on the musicians was almost as powerful a phenomenon as the music itself. … It’s only in the late 19th century that the professional conductor, as opposed to the composer- or pianist-conductor, was taken seriously as a vocation in musical life. … With the developing machinery of the record industry later in the 20th century, through broadcasting on radio, TV, and film, the conductor could be elevated to the realms of the seemingly all-powerful autocrat.”

Posted June 5, 2012