Tom Morris: What Defines An Orchestral Point Of View

WHAT’S IN THIS VIDEO: A great orchestra has a point of view. It’s not interchangeable with other orchestras. You need a collection of musicians who don’t just play notes well, but who each add something distinctive. You need cohesiveness. Orchestras have been gradually losing personal style. Jet travel and musicians and conductors moving around works against cohesive style. Recording too leads to homogenized sound. Orchestras probably play better than ever before but in terms of cohesive style, things have not gotten better. Notion of a “Big Five” of great orchestras doesn’t work today. It is possible today to hear world-class performances by orchestras you would have thought 35 years was only possible by the great “Big Five.”

ABOUT TOM MORRIS

Comments

  1. I can’t help thinking that when talking about an orchestra we may actually be talking about the concept of emergence–something larger and more complex than the individual collective size and complexities of its parts. One could argue that an orchestra parallels, at least in part and at a very low level, the mysterious nature of consciousness or hive intelligence. It’s not quite that dramatic obviously, and it’s definitely a lofty comparison to make, but I think it makes sense when you start talking about the “personalities” of different orchestras.

    I’ve always wondered why some people consider certain orchestras “great,” but I just assumed it mostly had to do with experience and skill level–that great orchestras screwed up less and could play more difficult pieces. I’m starting to realize there’s more to it than that.

    Great series!

  2. Anthony L. says:

    This is extremely interesting to me. In my humble experience as a musician I have played in live groups of 3-5 people. There it is easy to hear each players contribution. When you are talking about an orchestra of 100 people or more I always thought the emphasis would have to be in technical performance. With that many musicians you’d have to be tight, right? I guess it never occured to me that within different sections of the orchestra there are musicians adding their own unique signature to the mix while still playing every note in the score and not one more. I can see where interchangeable performers would lessen the chance to develop chemistry with those around them therefore losing a signature sound that the orchestra is known for.

  3. Seth Wrightington says:

    My view of the orchestra as a cohesive performing group is relative to the introduction of great new repertoire. Musicians in molding their technique and honing their instruments’ sound quality are helpless for listeners if no new pieces can capture their magic! The problem for composers for orchestra is that they tend to focus on just what Mr. Morris is talking about here: the large character of the group, their big sound. But he is right too. Considering the solo player as an individual virtuosi on her instrument, artists can exploit talented orchestras to challenging compositions for soloists and smaller groups. I feel the possibilities for concerto have been under utilized in America, and as a composer, I want to work more on them.

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