In a comment yesterday, Thomas D. rightly identified as problematic my provocatively not-annotated use of the word and concept “democratic” in combination with chamber music playing (see my post about rehearsal culture). Thomas writes: “What is ‘democratic’ chamber music playing anyway? In reality, one part is almost always musically leading (not always the same part!) – and there is no such thing as an artistic compromise.”
Let’s take a closer look.
A classic method to make a work team understand that true collective input significantly enhances the quality of the result is to give this team a test on a completely unknown subject: I remember that our Baroque ensemble once had to answer several pages of questions about lifeboats, knots and anchors. First, the test is attacked by each member individually, who has to answer the questions, without a dictionary, just like they feel the right answer might be. Then the whole group works through the questions, by means of a collective discussion, and the answers are then given according to democratic principles. Naturally, the result achieved by the entire group is, in terms of measurable correctness, strikingly better than even the best individual one. Surprisingly, though, I have seen a whole group of musicians, including myself, being fooled by this result. (more…)