I blogged awhile ago about the extraordinary Appalachian Spring, performed by the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra, with the musicians playing from memory and dancing. Now there’s a video. Watch it! I think you’ll be inspired.
And if you haven’t seen it, you also might watch the group’s earlier video of Afternoon of a Faun, also played from memory and danced. These two performances, Faun and Appalachian Spring, are some of the most extraordinary musical work being done in the US, probably in the world. They demonstrate how much creativity — life-affirming, for both musicians and audience — there can be in classical music.
Faun has a simple video. The one for Appalachian Spring is more carefully produced, a professional job, a creative work in its own right, not just a record of the performance.
And the treatments of the two pieces — both choreographed by Liz Lerman — weren’t the same. In Faun, the movement all came from the music. In Appalachian Spring, there were two dancers on stage, along with the musicians, playing prominent parts. So while what the musicians did still was impressive — deeply moving — what we saw was more of a dance piece than Faun had been.
The video, to my eye, amplifies the purely dance elements, by focusing on the two dancers. So then I get less of the physical and inspirational impact of the musicians than I did when I saw the piece live.
But that’s just me. The response to this video, from everything I’ve heard, has been overwhelmingly positive. Ecstatic, even.
I want to be clear about what I think this means. I’m not saying that all orchestras now should start dancing their performances. The moral of the story, for me, would be more like: If this is possible — Faun and Appalachian Spring — what else could we do?