The Nashville Symphony via Youtube:
After the Storm . . .
I’m not sure about you, but I’m already looking forward to putting 2020 in the rearview mirror. We’re not even halfway through the year and we’ve weathered a catastrophic tornado and are grappling with a global pandemic . . . and we’re not out of the woods yet. As our communities gradually reopen and we learn to adjust to what is a hopefully temporary “new normal”, we are all confronted with uncertainty and apprehension about the future. But, even as we adjust to quarantine, social distancing, facemasks, and the elbow bump rather than the handshake – we can still take joy in life’s simple pleasures . . . at least this is what I tell my kids (and myself) after I’ve defused the umpteenth screaming argument over screen time.
So, when I saw that on May 28th the Nashville Symphony had posted a performance of the 5th movement of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony captured via Zoom, I decided to take my own advice and carve out a few minutes to enjoy a little music and remember that this too shall pass. I know the ensemble had already planned to perform the Pastoral Symphony this Spring before live concerts were put on hold, but given the current circumstances, the 5th movement (Joyful and thankful feelings after the storm) is perfect programming. Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony has long been associated with the composer’s love of nature, and this too reflects current events as our parks, greenways, and trails have been teeming with visitors while other entertainment venues remain closed. All of the mid-state seems to be enjoying a chance to slow down and rediscover the natural beauty we sometimes take for granted. Though we’re not completely out of this storm, a moment of reflection and thankfulness is certainly a welcome prospect.
The Symphony’s performance is available to view on YouTube and is presented as a kind of mosaic of individually shot videos that have been cleverly edited together to show the musicians in an approximation of a symphonic seating order during tutti sections – with the strings down front and winds in the back. The audio is impressive, as I imagine that multiple sound files were painstakingly edited together to create the whole. This was no small feat, but the overall product sounds relatively seamless. As smaller consorts or soloists emerge, individual video panes are enlarged and highlighted, lending a sense of intimacy to what could have felt static or removed. All of the video was obviously created by the musicians themselves, filming and recording their individual parts at home – and this was particularly moving as those we usually see on stage in formal dress are presented here in t-shirts, in living rooms, surrounded by the framework of everyday life.
I think it is safe to say that in recent months, we’ve all felt vulnerable at one point or another. I know that I have. But, there is a strength in recognizing that this is a shared experience. The willingness of the Nashville Symphony’s musicians to perform from their homes, to invite audiences in, and to make this a very personal experience, serves as a reminder that art music, even stalwarts of the classical canon, aren’t artifacts to be admired from afar, but are living pieces of art that continue to evolve and communicate the more they are shared with one another.
As a resolution to the “storm” it follows, Beethoven’s 5th movement also reminds us that storms will eventually pass, and until we’re out of this one, I welcome the chance to share more music with the Nashville Symphony from afar. So, if you could use a moment of thankfulness, click the link below and take a stroll through the countryside (or your neighborhood) in true Beethovenian fashion to enjoy a gift of joy and clarity courtesy of the Nashville Symphony.
Brad Baumgardner is an unapologetic music nerd who listens to Rossini, Reich, and Radiohead with equal joy. As a composer and new music clarinetist, he has a particular soft spot for thoughtfully crafted and well orchestrated contemporary music. He lives in Nashville with his wife and children, none of whom own or wear cowboy boots.