Daniel Barenboim & Christoph Waltz on the Fidelity to a Text | Parallels & Paradoxes Part 1/4


Sound? Let’s do a first take. – Everybody ready ? – It’s so touching, that all this digital equipment still needs… – Yes, clapper boards-
– It’s been done since the beginning of the medium. – Thank you very much for coming today to have this conversation. I would like to talk to you, very much, about the things that may be similar or different in our respective professions. – Well, thank you for having me most of all. The first thing that is obvious, that we have in common… you as an actor and me as musician – is that we have to deal with text. How do we learn a text? What do we have to do in order to then make the text our own and yet be faithful to what the composer or the writer has written. And I think it would be interesting for the public to hear also little bit about the process that we go through because it’s not a mechanical process. – The first thing is probably a decision on what level you want to compare or find analogies or discrepancies or differences. Because of course you could say one doesn’t have anything to do with the other. Because a musician usually is an accomplished artist, who’s operating on the highest level. And I would always say that the actor isn’t. I would always say the actor is, if at all, at the bottom of the spectrum. But maybe not in the spectrum at all. – I don’t think I meant it to be discussed on the question of the level of the quality because you have [that] in acting and music also. People of different levels with different degrees of interest in depth, interest in understanding the text, looking for what they can do for themselves, looking how they can contribute to the text. One thing is clear that we have in common, and ours is much more complicated than your’s, because you have words. Of course, words can be spoken in so many different ways and by the same person in different ways, at different times. But the words are the same. And it’s clear what they mean, according to how you … well, but a table is a table. You’re right about the table, but we have black spots on white paper and nobody will ever convince me, that, that what you can buy in a music shop, in the days when there were music shops, is the 5th symphony by Beethoven. The 5th symphony by Beethoven is when an orchestra get’s together and makes this sound. Therefore the process of how to get to how to play the sound is very intricate. – Yeah, I totally agree and in, let’s say dramatic literature it’s the same thing. In terms of ink on paper, you know. The letters on paper are not really the drama because the drama is, traditionally meant to be performed on stage. Yet, I can read the drama but you can’t read the score and it’s not what it was written for but as a stage to get there that that would be an analogy. I just think… everybody uses words all the time, so words are familiar. And that’s very misleading. If I see a note… on five lines I’d, I mean I personally don’t assume immediately: “I know exactly what it is and that’s … …. and that’s how I deal with it.” With words, because we learn when we’re a year-and-a-half, we start to learn words, so we always think we know words. There are an infinitive amount of possibilities to say it, now the intention of the author is, or should be, or can be the guiding idea. Every note is there for a reason and the accumulation of the notes, result in the text. It’s more or less analog to every letter is there for a reason and the accumulation of the, of the letters result in the drama. – Of course but precisely because of what you say about the familiarity with the words, it is clear, that a text has a meaning. It’s either about the woods or about a love story, or about the crime or whatever it is. What is the meaning of music how can you, you know, you cannot really, you cannot really explain that. This will always remain the mystery of music because in a way it is the end abstract. – The unanswered question. – The unanswered question and therefore we cannot speak about that. I think when we speak about music, we speak about our reaction to it, you know. You listen to a performance of the G-minus symphony of Mozart, then you are in a melancholic mood and this will seem to you, [like] the most melancholic piece of music ever written, you hear the same performance when you’re high and you will feel that [it’s] happy music etc, etc. Therefore it’s very dangerous to talk about the meaning of music. But i think what we could talk about, is what is our responsibility versus the text, what we have to give it, how much personal involvement, if you want, is allowed or necessary. Where does it stop? In other words the fidelity to the text is the first quality that we must have, if we want to perform the text. I would agree but, because I’m an old conservative fart. That’s why I agree immediately, I’m convinced that there are plenty, plenty of self-declared revolutionaries… and iconoclasts, who say: “No, it’s my interpretation that counts more”. I saw a poster, not too long ago, here in Berlin. It was a red poster and it had I won’t tell you who, the name of the director. Big, like this, a third of the poster. It was the name of the director. Then, a little smaller, it said: “Don Giovanni” and then tiny it said: “Mozart”. Well actually you know you need to turn it around, exactly that. Mozart, Don Giovanni, ….. So I’m completely against it. But I’m, in that respect, I am very conservative. I wonder why they don’t write their own pieces to actually have a radically different idea about something is a wonderful impetus and motivation to write a piece. [Say] I like Don Giovanni but i don’t really want to hear the Mozart music and I also don’t like the fact that Don Giovanni is a man, it should be Donna Giovanna and also, you know, the contour should be, you know, the little brother. And [I say] great, great it’s all wonderful. Write a piece! One of the most important things, I think, for a musician is how to make the marriage, in your own brain, between knowledge, not information. Knowledge! And intuition. In other words, there are different levels of knowledge as we know. In today’s world I feel that knowledge has become a rarity because people mistake information for knowledge. You know, you see that the sun rises and sets, and therefore you think you know. You don’t know! You only know, when you can answer the question: “How?” or “What for?”. And this this is a question that every musician, must ask himself, when he is in front of a piece of music. – That’s interesting, because when I am in front of a piece of writing, being asked to play it, I try to avoid the question “How?”. I say: “What?” “What is it?”, because I am convinced, if I, if I can whittle down all the questions, what it is to the core, the process of how to do it, will evolve from that, almost automatically. – Yes, but in music you have this element of sound, because music is.. something that has to do with the human soul, whatever way you want to describe it, it has to with that. But it can be expressed through a very physical phenomenon, which is sound. Which starts and stops, you hold it, all those things and therefore the “How?” is very important. How a wind player attacks the first note, how a string player can…. control the bow, how a pianist put’s his hands on the piano can, in the end, change the “What?”. – Yes, I believe that, only if you follow an intention, wouldn’t it be the first question: “What is it, that I’m trying to achieve or accomplish?”. And then employ the necessary means, by saying this is how I need to do it, in order to get to it. But in order to analyze, or to find out, or discover, I find it very useful to say: “What is it?”, “What is it, that the the author meant?” “What is it, that I need to do?” “What is it that I’m asked to participate in?” And then, that’s why I say… I mean for me… But that’s also why I meant, you know, the spectrum, the spectrum, the musician is at the top end of the spectrum and the actor probably at the bottom. And the moment the idea is clear: “What is it?” The “How to do it?”, organically evolves. – Yes, but the element of sound is, in the end, I think the main difference. Because of course you have to do with sound too, in the end… But how sound is something that is outside our body, unless we speak about singers, and this is another conversation. You know we talk about sound in a way which is very, very subjective, we speak about the violinist and .. I say: “He has such a beautiful sound!” And you say: “That’s harrowing!” Or I say: “That singer, has a very bright voice.” And you say: “No it’s a dark voice.” It’s very subjective, it’s very subjective and therefore, I always try to tell the musicians, in the orchestra, and also the students of course, it’s very important to understand the physical phenomenon of sound. Sound has a beginning and has an end, and whether we say the sound is grey or red, bright or dark is totally unimportant and totally subjective. But the weight of the sound, the weight of the sound is something objective, and therefore how do I start it, how do I sustain it and how do I feel about it. – Ah! You just mentioned something that is a profound difference. Because in what I do, there is absolutely no objectivity involved, whatsoever. Not even in the analysis of the text. There is absolutely, nothing that could be measured, the sound can be measured, I’m not saying that this is necessary to achieve a beautiful sound, but it can be measured and, you know there are 440 Hertz to an A, and that’s it. We don’t even have an A, let alone 440 measurable Hertz. What we do is kind of swindle all the time. Sort of cheat, you know, you kind of of arrange your…the path of least resistance. And that’s not possible in what you do. – No, in music the only path, that is worth finding, is the path of most resistance. That’s the only way you.. – And I’m not talking about, you know, artistic achievements and you know sort of spiritual attempt to reach a level… and all of that you know esoteric… I’m just talking about more or less tangible. And with what we do, there’s nothing tangible, it’s all ethereal. – And how much intuition is it? Well, I would like to…. double, triple, quadruple check my intuition. And you say: “Well first impressions are usually the best ones.” I disagree! First impressions are.. just feel good because they are new, because they are first. Of course intuition, intuition should be, should be allowed but I think it should be double checked.

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