image courtesy of Pointe Tango.

To be Alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That’s crudely put, but…
If we’re not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?”
-Gregory Orr

So much of music is about relationships: instruments in relation to other instruments (or voices), notes in relationship to notes (which determine modality, or let’s say the “mood” of a piece), musicians in relationship to each other, even the relationship between the musician and the listener. The visible arts show us relationships clearly. Not only do we see the two dancers in relationship to each other in this video by Pointe Tango, but they combine two forms – classical ballet & tango – to create an entirely new one.   The compelling, pulsing music by  the Payadora Ensemble complements this beautifully, by combining the finesse and rigour of classical performance with the tango form.

Zequinha de Abreu’s Tico Tico is a choro, another South American dance between partners, this one with a much more lighthearted tone:

These are the sympathetic vibrations of two things together:  two musicians, two dancers, two instruments.  Even in a single instrument, sympathetic vibrations are found in the viola d’amore, a rare and beautiful instrument which has two “decks” of strings—an upper level which is played with a bow like a violin, and the lower set which is never played, but which resonates and colours the sounds being produced directly above.

Its origins sometime during the 17th century are a bit of a mystery:  the sound-holes (the acoustic openings on the front of most string instruments, to the side of the strings on classical instruments and directly under the strings on a guitar) have the shape of an Islamic “Flaming Sword”, leading some to assume the name of the instrument is just a sound-accident of 

image by Frinck51  Wikimedia

viola of “the Moors”, but then the sculpted shape of the blind Cupid at the head of the Viola d’amore supports “instrument of love” appellation.


Renowned violinist Rachel Barton Pine took on the challenge of learning it, and here demonstrated the incredible beauty of its sound: 

As for the musicians’ relationship to the audience, there have been few as vocal as Glenn Gould in “detesting”  live audiences and retreating –at the height of an international performing career – to the isolation of the recording studio. Gould talks about going into the recording studio with 16 different feelings about the way a given piece might need to be recorded, and subsequently working that out by working through them repeatedly. “There’s a sense of option which you cannot afford yourself [onstage]…you cannot do that with an audience; if you walked on stage not being quite certain, you would be dead.”  It’s unfortunate that whatever relationship he had as a performer to his audience struck him as so adversarial.

I think the majority of performing artists would agree with conductor Zubin Mehta’s feelings about thriving on the energy and feedback from a live audience.  When asked about his response to Gould’s outlook, he declared: “I think he’s out of his mind. There has to be somebody that receives the stimulus; anybody, it can be somebody that we don’t know.”  Audiences experience change as a result of being on the receiving end of a live musical performance, but the artists are changed too, being stimulated and inspired by the energy exuded by their listeners.  As with any good relationship, its fuel is the give and take between the two sides, and they are both the better for it.