…because some thoughts are worth remembering
If I could only go to one performance of the symphony, I tend to choose the rehearsal. The timing is not optimized for the general public and the schedule isn’t announced, but it’s worth tracking it down for me because I enjoy hearing the works in the rough. Despite the fact that I have no musical talent to boot, I get to feel like I’m part of the artistic process, listening to the conductor ask the orchestra to play a passage again with stronger attack at the beginning, and for the section leader to clarify the tempo markings.
With some world renowned artists like Midori, it seemed like common knowledge among the symphonic musicians that her violin sings more and her performance even better during rehearsals because she tends to take more risks. (A conversation I got to have with another musician because I was at a rehearsal.) I am sure a big part of why I enjoy contemporary classical music has to do with being able to have the composers works be interpreted under their direct guidance.
In the arena of graphical arts, where most of the masterworks have been completed and the masters themselves long gone, there’s no equivalent to the concert rehearsals. The exhibition of “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible” at the Met Breuer in New York may come closest to this experience. This exhibition puts together unfinished works from the Renaissance era to contemporary art to explore the question of when a work of art is finished.
Of course we enjoy masterworks to be polished. If they don’t transform you beyond our world, that it wasn’t created by a genius, it may not be considered a masterwork. The creators of the masterworks strive for the sense of nonchalance to add to the awe of the work, artists tend to hide the real hard work and the struggle (even geniuses must practice!).
But they are created by human beings. They may be gifted and have talents we don’t, but they also have 24 hours in a day, they eat and sleep, they think, they feel, they love and they hurt. So when you get to see the work in progress, the process of perfecting the product is a true glimpse into the humanity of the work rather than the divine output.
And I am in good company appreciating works in progress, as Pliny the Younger is to have said:
Unfinished paintings are more admired than the finished because the artist’s actual thoughts are left visible.
I may have to arrange a trip to New York to track down those thoughts left visible at the Met.
Photo: Rose on Reed College campus, Portland, Oregon