I owe a musical debt to fiery collaborators of the great cellist Pablo Casals: Karen Tuttle, Julius Levine, Felix Galimir, and Alexander Schneider. Whenever these gurus conducted, coached, or taught me, they demanded 110% emotional commitment. Anything less was a crime. Just as they shared Casals’ passionate approach with me, I aim to impart their fervor to the next generation.
Going for the Emotional
This year, “Going for the Emotional” was my mantra at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp (MWROC). My general sessions explored Karen Tuttle’s compendium of the five human emotions: love, joy, anger, fear, and sorrow.
Through gut-wrenching actors’ studio work, we conjured up deep personal experiences. We then modulated our emotional intensity using a 1 to 10 scale. (1 represents a mild manifestation of a chosen emotion. At the opposite end of the scale, 10 is where a person overflows, loses control, or has nothing left to give.) In addition to expressing ourselves through vocalizations and dramatic poses, we improvised and composed with our instruments.
Building Emotional Ensembles
In my small ensembles, we deepened our initial emotional explorations. One group, The Indubitably Sunny Phish, explored the mellow end of the spectrum. Since their improvisatory performance of Trey Anastasio and Tom Marshall’s Wading in the Velvet Sea greatly moved me, I vowed to sing it in 2014:
Meanwhile, a technically advanced ensemble, Harbingers of Darkness, explored the dark recesses of the human psyche. As a group, we reconstructed Tet Offensive from Billy Bang’s Vietnam: The Aftermath.
When the entire faculty and student body came together as a magnificent orchestra for the final concert, we were not just playing loudly. Yes, we were rocking out, but we were filling every note with uttermost feeling. Without a doubt, my mentors would have been proud.
Walking the Emotional Walk
Because credibility means everything for a teacher, I must practice what I preach. For my faculty concert on July 17th, I put together as emotionally loaded a set as I could envision. When you watch the performance, you’ll see that we encompassed all five of Tuttle’s human emotions. I actually pushed myself quite close to a 10.
After the concert, my collaborating MWROC faculty member, producer Matt Vanacoro sent me a priceless text:
Hey, David! Karen just texted me. They found your soul onstage after you ripped it out and showed it to everyone. Might want to run back and pick it up!
-Doc Wallace, 29 July 2013