This spring I attended an Apollo’s Fire concert with friends near my home. “Apollo’s Fire” (Cleveland Baroque Orchestra) plays music from that era on period instruments. Baroque string instruments use gut strings and produce a mellower sound. The harpsichord is a major contributor, as is the wooden flute, the traverse. Six musicians, a softer sound, and a smaller venue gave the concert an intimate feel. The full house wasn’t overpowered by the sound, and the performers’ brisk movements invited us to “lean in” and actively listen and internalize the sounds like we would in conversation with a friend.
I think art is a conversation. We artists get ourselves into trouble when we forget that. When “self” expression is the chief end of art, our work is “self” centered and we wonder at the small audiences at poetry readings and gallery openings. Some artists end up talking to themselves. Some writers write and have no audience. I tell my writing students that nobody cares about their self-expression. Readers want to react to a work that is crafted in ways they can relate to and understand.
When the musicians moved into the familiar opening measures of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, it was like seeing the face of an old friend across a room after a long absence. Ahhhh….You anticipate deep conversation and soon are totally engaged.
How do we invite our audience to a conversation through our art like Apollo’s Fire did through Baroque music and superior musicianship?