Tonight was Prom 18, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop. Alsop, who is sadly off to bigger and better things in 2007 (Bournemouth is a local city for me), was a tremendous centre to the orchestra. It struck me that the emotion showing on her face was - more than even her energetic movements - what bonded the artists. From Mind Hacks, I remember reading (in the chapters contributed by Alex) about how quickly emotional state is transferred through a group, and, of course, how body posture is imitated, and all of this carries through to your actions, and so on. What better way to carry those subtle inflections to the music than by putting someone empathic and charismatic in the middle, and have them frown, or pull themselves up, or move as if through treacle, or flash a tiny grin.
Now, I'm already a fan of modern classical, and I very much enjoy Glass and Reich, but I only heard my first John Adams two years ago (On the Transmigration of Souls, Proms 2003). That was excellent. But my, tonight, when it opened with The Chairman Dances, from his Nixon in China. Well. It's going to sound incredibly crass and populist to anybody who really knows their music, I imagine (because I don't know my music; I feel lost in it, and that's a lot of what I enjoy about it too), but: blown away. Adams is so much more human than Reich, and less earnest than Glass. His music plays with pattern, and with the nature of synchronisation and the multiple parts of the orchestra itself. It's aware, and humourous, and real at the same time; life bursting through. I sat right at the front, where the sound of the orchestra divides up and you can really pick everything out, where the music is outside your head rather than inside it, and I had that skin-tingly, rollercoaster feeling the whole way. I'm ashamed to say I almost whooped. The dancing chairman being Alsop, really, whose movements wouldn't be out of place at the clubs for the other kind of music I get like this about. Well done her, and well done Bournemouth. I hope to see them both again soon. An all-round powerful, accomplished, brilliant evening. (You can listen online to Prom 18 for the next 7 days. Adams starts a couple of minutes in, and is only a quarter hour long.)