Openness to the Unknown

Composer Gabriel Malancioiu shares his thoughts on this very philosophical theme...
This article approaches aspects of one of the greatest fears of the human mind, the fear of the unknown, and the way it reflects in the musical field.

Could it be that this same fear is responsible for undermining a composers attempt to give birth to his innermost feelings, for compromising the performers attempt to recreate the musical world imagined by the composer, or for not letting the music permute the listeners consciousness?

Let’s try to shed some light on this problem from the composers perspective. There is a big difference between a mind driven creation of new structures, timbral combinations, theatrical situations and the case in which a composer is just trying to express what is revealed to him: sometimes, that expression will fit the current expectations, as is the for Mozart’s many works, in other situations the invention of new structures is required, as it is the case for many of Beethoven’ s works.

Since both perspectives are proven to be equally valid, any attempt to forcefully recreate these situations will have as a result either an imitation or a prometheic effort to create something original at all costs. In time, both cases will be prove to be failures, because the natural balance between known and unknown, that is inherent to every great work of art, is broken. The same fear of uncertainty will push the performer to try to fixate every detail of a performance in advance, so that on stage he will just try to reproduce the setup memorized beforehand.

If there is no room for the unexpected to surface during a performance, I don’t think that the spontaneity which brings freshness to a piece of music could be replaced by any of the mentally pre-determined plans. Without the playful energy of the improvisation, the performance will have the sense of sterility that the artificial flowers have, compared with the natural ones. Though many advantages of the predetermined plans will be present, the music will not flower to it’s fullest potential in the listeners consciousness. There are, of course, many other issues that the performer has to confront regarding the conditioned perspective from which he acts: how to move away from the critical voices in his head - in the opposite case having to face the famous “stage fright problems”, how not to fall into the trap of imitation, how to infuse his studying time with joy and contentment…

Listening from a conditioned perspective to a piece of music that is provocative (because of the music itself or because of the unconventional way it is performed), will determine a strong reaction that actually has its roots in the fear generated by unfamiliarity. The usual way of diminishing that fear is to try to widen the scope of the conditioning, so that the view will become more inclusive. That progressive path, realized through education, will last until our last breath, and it’s an important part of our lives. But I believe that there is a more direct path, accessible to every human life form, an innate intelligence that is capable of enjoying every form of art, irrespective of the received education; that is capable of finding the cheerful energy of improvisation in the performance of any musical work and to feel the gratitude arosen in every composer that is expressing unimpededly his innermost feeling. A more simple way, which doesn’t take any time, because that capacity is already in us: an openness to the unknown, in spite of the fear generated by our own limitations; an innocent welcoming of whatever appears in the field of consciousness.

Is it possible, under the burden of conditioning, to still listen with clear ears, without expecting, without comparing with what we have already known and listened to?
We’ ll only have to look deep inside of us, to establish clearly what the position that we are looking from is, to see if there is a place from where even the old habits of conditioning are seen. If my position is above the complex conditioned machinery, then I don’t have to do anything to escape from it, and my every action will glow of freshness and energy because it will not be hampered by the past.

Let’s take one example to see how the fear of the unknown is disconnecting the listener from much of the music created in our times. Our musical culture (especially the one governed by tonal hierarchical relations, but not restricted to it) is, without any doubt, structured around the idea of repetition. That process appears when we look to the musical works in their entirety or only observing their microstructure. From one very potent musical cell repeated in various forms, Beethoven created a whole work, as one can see in his 5th Symphony. Musical motives are repeated to create musical phrases, which, by repetition, will create musical forms such as theme and variations, sonatas or fugues. It is not surprising that the most accessible musical form, overused in pop music, is the rondo form, a way of structuring the musical material that is highly repetitive. If I would try to listen to non-repetitive music having the expectations built through years of listening to repetitive music, the single result will be a frustrating, irritating feeling, in which my expectations are grievously trashed.

The French mystic Jean Klein considers that the great works of art have such a strong force of attraction over centuries because of their innate harmony that will resonate with something intimately close to us, our own natural harmony. For an authentic experience to occur, one single requirement is necessary for the composer, performer and listener alike: a detachment from his own conditioning, so that the music can spring unobstructedly in the composer’s mind, being recreated by the performer without egoistic interference, and being received by the public with an innocent and open mind.

Gabriel Malancioiu is a contemporary classical composer and HELLO STAGE member from Romania. Find out more about him and especially listen to his music on his HELLO STAGE Page: https://www.hellostage.com/Gabriel-Malancioiu.
Author: Gabriel Malancioiu edited by Nina HELLO STAGE
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