The conductor and his Map

The conductor as guide

If the score of a composition is the map of the journey we are taking by sound in time, the conductor is the guide. He studies the map, is ahead of us to see where we are going and helps us stay together in difficult times.

Conductors are guides

The composer creates the landscape and draws the map with the path we follow. This means that the composer is not only the creator and cartographer of his own landscape, but also a guide. The composer is the guide that know the landscape and the route best. So composer is a conductor by the nature of his work as the creator of the landscape and path we will take. 

Composers are cartographers and guides

The conductor of an orchestra is the guide who knows the passengers best: He learns the map by heart and takes the musicians with him on a journey.

The conductor can instruct his ‘passengers’ in different ways:

  • He can conduct the phrase: “Go to that crossing and wait for me for further instructions.”
  • He can conduct the rhythm: “We march in this pace and watch your feet there, near that trunk.”
  • He can conduct the group: “Will all the people with the yellow vouchers walk in front, please?”
  • He can conduct, explaining the emotional meaning of the signs on the map: “Here we see the remains of an old hunters-hut, still used by my fierce uncle John”.

But probably the best way to conduct, is to do that all at once:

“You see uncle John, standing near that old hunters-hut by the crossing? The people with the yellow vouchers go there first and the rest follows in a slow pace. Please, watch the trunks!” 

This illustrates the complexity of conducting very well. 

It also illustrates that the composer may not be the best guide for the journey: Because he doesn’t know the passengers: their names, their vouchers, the condition of their feet, how fast they can walk.

When you make the composer your guide, you get to see all the best views but you risk passengers getting hurt, not enjoying the journey. Staying behind in despair.

Only with fit passengers the best guide is the composer

The score as his map

When you draw a map of a landscape, you must draw the altitude lines in such a way that it suggests how steep a slope is: Is it a plane? Then the altitude lines are wide apart. Is it a steep hill? The altitude lines are drawn next to each other. This way a map makes us see de 3D representation of the landscape easier. 

When you draw a score, you must do the same representing time: When the tempo is slow, you put the bar-lines wide apart. When your tempo is fast, you put the bar-lines next to each other. The score will give a natural feel of the time passing when you make a great the lay-out. This is what a conductor needs to see, to be a great guide.

When we see music as a map, then that map itself has paper boundaries. But the music has only boundaries in time, music has no boundaries in space. We can go from THERE! to psst…here.. to everywhere. The journey can only end at a certain point of time.

And the guide will let you know in time.  

Categorized as Paperwork

By Anneloes Wolters


%d bloggers like this: