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Blog » The art of bowing

27 Mar  

Taking a bow.

Taking a bow is one of those curious aspects of being a composer. I've sometimes caught myself wondering what is going on in a composer's mind as they jump on stage- does this moment in the spotlight make it all worthwhile; is it a terrible duty which would be avoided if only it could; or is it something somewhere in between?

I still find it a quiet source of pride how few composers are ready for that moment in the spotlight, we emerge tramp-like and awkward -  the epitomy of uncool, uncommercial  - we come on stage in our un-ironed jackets, or with a sock still stuck in one trouser leg. Then we scurry across the stage as quick as we can, not knowing where to put ourselves, and take an awkward bow. There's an interesting paradox in the way so many composers are so unnatural on the stage: we spend our entire lives trying to create something that is after all intended for performance 'on the stage'. We are aware of the finest, subtlest details of how certain effects in our music will come across - we can subdue an entire crowd, get them laughing or crying with our notes; and yet when we have to present ourselves in person on the stage we are likely as not to stumble on the steps before we even get there!

I for one would love ocassionally to attend performances where I wasn't called up to the stage - for starters one is forced to sit in a poor seat at the edge of the row, probably near the back, so as to effect a quick and easy emergence. Then, rather than listening to the music, you spend the entire concert wondering how you will get past that lady with the large hat sitting right in the way of the stage access; do I just shake the conductor's hand, or do I make my way through the entire ensemble kissing and hugging all ten of them, forcing the audience to keep clapping while I do (and risking that they might stop!).

At the end of the day, we composers probably secretly quite like a bit of adulation from time to time, but there's no doubt on the whole we're much happier and more comfortable when we get back to our desks and have only the concerns of the manuscript page to occupy us.

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 Graham Lynch commenting on The art of bowing:
27 March 2010 at 22:29

Yep, thatís all just how I feel. I guess that if Iíd wanted a life in the limelight, up on stage, Iíd not have chosen to be a composer: which is about the same as being a hermit.

The question of how to reach the stage (and what or who to shake or kiss) does rather occupy oneís mind during the performance. On one occasion, the premier of an orchestral piece, I purposefully strode up to take a bow and the conductor motioned for me to get onto his stand Ė a metre square box positioned on the wooden floor. Not realising that there was nothing connecting this box to the stage I ascended it at speed and felt it lurch forward beneath me. There was a brief moment during which me and the force of gravity struggled, and I won, just, and stayed upright. It didnít escape the attention of the first violins though, who all grinned from ear to ear!

 David Bruce commenting on The art of bowing:
28 March 2010 at 07:34

Nice one! Welcome to the club! I guess another post could be about composers when they conduct their own work. My impression is that they tend to get a bit over-excited. I've seen a baton flying loose up to the ceiling, and another baton snapped in two after an over-vigorous gesture.

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