We Wisdom: A tempo
|By Anabelle Craig - Contributing writer | March 29, 2018|
There is a beat everywhere. From the rhythmic cycle of the washing machine to the whisking of your eggs. From your car engine, to the drip of the tap, to the silent stroke of a canoe paddle, there is a beat.
Walking down the street you can see people keeping pace with each other or the runners jogging in time to their own soundtrack. Whether your job revolves around the time of day or the seasons, you can’t ignore that steady beat. Living without time is like living without the sun. Which is ironic really, since one of the earliest clocks was a sundial and relied on the constant motion of our earth as it relates to the sun.
I struggle with time. Not the concept but how it affects my day to day activities. From waking early and being ready for bus pick up, the warning bells at school and the dreaded late slip to my cello. The one place where timing really matters. Music relies so heavily on timing that there are more than 50 terms to describe the speed at which the musician should play. And the metronome and I are not friends. Its constant tick-tick-tick-tick makes me cringe in pain and on occasion I have considered throwing mine into the lake. However, if you want to play with others, you can’t march to the beat of your own drum.
Luckily, I have a great conductor who understands the struggles of staying on beat. I had a few moments to chat with Dan Manley, the Highlands Chamber Orchestra conductor, at practice on Friday about time and how it relates to his job. He has been a conductor for more than 10 years, beginning with a brass ensemble in Toronto. Once he moved to the area, he started working with the Haliburton Wind Symphony and now the Chamber Orchestra. As well, he is sometimes a guest conductor for other groups.
While speaking with him, I watched in amusement as he demonstrated so passionately his favourite and least
favourite musical timings. As expected, he spoke with his hands, humming and counting while answering my questions.
“Slow times are hard since it feels like the bar is never ending ... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, repeat … while conducting in 5/4 is a real pain since it is so close to 4/4 but with an extra beat ... 1, 2, 3, 4, oh, wait, there is another beat, *giggle*. While a beautiful flowing 4/4, time is just like making love to the air,” which is when another
musician cleared her throat and he realized I was still there. (I told you he was passionate.)
What I found interesting is that Dan is always conducting, keeping us together while we play high or low notes or really fast sections. He makes sure we are always staying together.
He walks in beat, tapping and buzzing as he moves and finds himself moving along to the radio or random songs throughout his week. He is literally a tempo.
Over the next few months, I am going to explore timing and how it relates to our county and the people who live here. I will examine the relationship between musical terms and the different jobs that relate to time.