18. March 2007 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Ramble

Long ago orchestra audition committees started the practice of hearing instrumentalists from behind a screen. A worthy goal is at stake here: to eliminate prejudice and ensure that the committee≠s judgment is not influenced by a musician≠s age, sex or ethnicity.

But this policy has a down side. An orchestra is hiring a person as well as a player.

Many of my colleagues insist that we should do fully “blind” auditions. For Symphony Silicon Valley I believe that is the case. It certainly was for San Jose Symphony (RIP). For Opera San José finals are without a screen, on the insistence of the conductor.

I don’t like the screen for finals. I think the way someone plays matters. I even think the knowledge that someone “doesn’t play well with others” should matter, although we didn’t discuss that when it came to the opera auditions I’ve been a part of. If people in the business world wine and dine someone to see how they fit with the company, shouldn’t orchestras check this out too? We have to work very closely with each other, and while we don’t have to be pals, we at least need to have some sort of ability to cooperate.

But maybe that’s just me!

Anyway, the article is actually about how we hear differently if we see the performer. (And it ties in with the Hatto scandal, which I’m sure many of us are ready to put to rest.)

Funny to think of how seeing can influence our hearing; I’ve heard tell of some newbies to symphony who say they won’t return because “there’s nothing to see.”

Another concert today. First church, of course, but then off to work I go. (No “Sabbath rest” for yours truly. In the past I used to try to turn Monday into a “Sabbath day” but even that fell to the wayside due to scheduling of students.) Last night’s concert seemed to go over well with the audience. I have to wear earplugs for the louder portions, and I’m sorry to say that makes me a very poor judge of how things went.

Earplugs. Sigh. I hate ‘em. I rarely put them to use. When I do have them in I find that my other senses fly out the window! My vision seems less clear, to be sure. I kind of shut down entirely, or so it feels. And of course I hear an awful tongue clicking … my own tongue, of course! … because … how to explain this … I feel as if I’m hearing everything from the inside of my head and nothing from the outside. It’s a pretty rotten thing. But I have to protect these old ears ‘o mine, and so there you go. The end of Bolero and parts of Copland are just too loud for me. I want to have some hearing left when I’m seventy.
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