September 15, 2013

Roller Coaster: Music to My Ears

On special pass to Six Flags Great America, the park was open only to VIPs. Rides were running and the wait time for any attraction was less than 10 minutes. It was heaven! What would normally take an entire day, visitors could accomplish in two hours.

Whether it was the constant dropping from heights, the non stop adrenaline in my system, or the beating of my head against the seat restraints, I got a loopy. And, in spite of my best effort, I simply couldn't stop riding. After the twenty-third coaster ride, I had a musical moment: these machines are pretty much musical phrases. I'll try to explain; caution, my head's still swollen...

Good musical line demands that there is enough energy to start a phrase, keep it moving, and eventually slow down, all without loosing physical energy. This is what enjoying a roller coaster is all about. As we peak the first great height and eventually cross the summit, nothing stops until the ride is over and done. We are constantly in motion building to the next exciting moments.

Before anyone ever gets on a coaster they have a pretty good idea of what it looks like, what's going to happen, and what to expect. The same should hold true for the musical phrase. If seeing it in the score is like watching a coaster from the waiting line, then singing something should be equivalent to strapping in and riding. There is no need to predict, to guess, or imagine where the coaster is going. We've been watching it for the past four hours in line! There is a good idea of what's going to happen and when.
All the nuts and bolts, we pray, before jumping in the latest and greatest thrill attraction are secure and ready. At a place like Six Flags one can bet highly that rides will operate smoothly day-to-day. This confidence comes from knowing the machinery. How it operates in different seasons, with less riders, in rain, or even God forbid, a damaged brake system. Ahh! Of course, I'm writing metaphorically but it's true, consistent success is closely related to knowing the hardware, what it does, when, how, and how well.    

The aim of any coaster is to leave smiling, happy, completely absorbed in the feelings and forces that occurred. We are to leave one ride, pumped-up and excited for the next. It's a dizzying and sometimes frightening experience to mount these machines seven and ten stories above the ground, but it's meant to be an experience. Engineers want to thrill and challenge us, but also they want us to leave having been unquestionably lost in a stimulating and exciting experience. When we're swirling high in the sky, passing loop-to-loop, and soaring through a double helix, what else exists? Nothing. Composers of music want exactly the same for us as performers, especially while creating the musical phrase.

No comments:

Post a Comment