Da Musically Inclined Bomb

DePauw University's First Year Seminar on Writing about Music

Monday, October 09, 2006

Cooley recital - values

I can't believe I forgot to do this! Please accept this, even though it's late... it completely slipped my mind!


Ever since the advent of recorded music, we have changed our expectations for live performance. In order to keep the attention of the audience, performance serves a clear purpose - it must offer some element that the recording cannot. In the case of vocal music especially, live performance is captivating in its visual aspect - we can see the expressions and thought processes of the performer, and thus better understand the composer's intent.

The best performers can communicate their message in any sung language. When the right expressions are used, language is a triviality - the performer will give us the visual cues to connect his or her emotions to the universal vernacular of the music.

Saturday night’s performance of Die Schöne Müllerin by Tom Cooley was an exemplary juxtaposition of excellent musical talent and clear performance. Even though the song cycle was sung in German, and there was no readily-offered translation, Tom Cooley was able to characterize the Miller – first delighted when finding his love, then angry as he loses her, and finally, sad and resigned to mourning. True, Professor Tonne’s performance of this same set helped, but even without it, Cooley’s expressive performance left no confusion.

That communication is what I value in live music. Music is worthless if it can’t express a palpable human emotion. The magic of live performance comes in the transition – when the performer’s expression is clear, and we as perceivers understand, a common human experience is shared. Truth is realized. This is the most important part of all live performance.


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