On Music and Movement, Part 2: The audience

The link between music and movement is nothing new. Music moves in directions - up and down, standing on the same spot, trilling around one point. It even moves in descriptive ways - jumping or gliding, whizzing or sauntering. In fact, the connection between the two ideas can feel quite basic. The fact that we are ‘moved’ by music is significant - the direction and pace of the notes is something that happens to us, as a passive listener, not something we apply to the music.

What is interesting, and something that has come up since we began to create this project, is how music moves us - physically.

Think about when you hear someone play a little upwards flurry of notes, high up on a string - you go upwards mentally. You feel something upwards - and, probably, if you’re the sort of person to get particularly affected by music, move upwards in some tiny increment in your stance. Same for particularly low notes - that release of coming out of a cramped, dark passage at the bottom of the strings’ register and moving upwards through pitches. Think about a lonnnnnng, high, sustained note coming out of one of these passages and you can almost feel your back stretch. Maybe you put your head back. Either way, if you’re free to move, the sound affects how you move and place your body.

This is, of course, a very crude way of linking music and movement. Pitches go up, body moves up, echoing the ascending line of visible notes on a page. My point is that sometimes it’s taken for granted that this invisible element, music, makes us move while we’re listening, even if that’s just mentally. And, by paying attention to this, we can experience a piece of music we think we know so well by paying attention to how we’re moving as we listen.

 Having now seen Goldberg Variations performed, not just played, it sounds and feels different and I wonder if that’s because I’m creating movement in my head. I can attach emotions to it more easily - exhilaration, despondence, calm. This is not insignificant when it comes to Bach, whose music is seen as magnificent but certainly not emotionally demanding. Maybe there is something in this. One of the starting notions of Goldberg Variations is this idea that the addition of movement to the invisible notes can create a completely new entity - a new art form. Mance. Dusic. A third realm which blends sight and sound.

Either way, next time you listen to a piece maybe just take note of whether you’re moving - and if so, how? Physically or mentally? Does it change if you’re listening on your own - sitting, or standing? What about sitting in a concert hall surrounded by other people? Which do you prefer?

And are you creating your own, brand new, completely unique choreographed artwork in your head as you listen? 

[Rosie Davies]