Editor’s Notebook: An analog experience

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by Brian Clarey

The first piece I ever wrote about the Eastern Music Festival must have been back in 2001, something I cobbled together at the last minute for Allison King and Ogi Overman when they helmed ESP magazine.

Even then, I remember remarking on just how long the thing was — five weeks of intense rehearsals and classes, nightly shows, featured performers and hundreds of musicians.

Admittedly, I couldn’t get my head around it.

For this week’s cover story (beginning on page 16) I stayed away from the press releases and wide-net pitches and used a little shoe leather by hitting some events. I watched the student orchestra, after a summer of intense training, absolutely slay a selection by their conductor, Grant Cooper, during a rehearsal one afternoon in an empty Dana Auditorium. I saw the pianist Jon Kimura Parker ignite the light of recognition in the eyes of a student who came all the way from Korea to learn the lesson.

This was real, man. No wires or amplification, no effects or digitization. Analog, baby. As pure as it gets.

And during a live performance I allowed the power of the full Festival Orchestra to wash over me during one of the most gorgeous things I have ever heard.

I listen to music all the time, but this was different: This was 83 souls, each with a single purpose, working — in concert — to make this beautiful sound, the low horns making a vibrating hum I could feel in my chest, the violins doing things that nearly brought me to tears, a kettle drum shattering the soundwaves that reverberated through the Dana Auditorium.

I’m talking oboes and bassoons. A big, grand piano. A couple of harps, for crying out loud.

This was real, man. No wires or amplification, no effects or digitization. Analog, baby. As pure as it gets.

It’s essentially the same experience that Bach and Beethoven gave their audiences, with only the skill of the musicians and the instruments they hold — and the crazy fella at the helm with the baton, swiping and thrusting the sound into life

I thought about the conductor, the power he must feel with the fury of a full orchestra at his disposal, his view from the front and center, his back to the crowd.

Amazing.

Some 13 years later, I’m starting to get it.