Being and Doing: Chamber Music as a Social Contract

By Amadeus Templeton
Guest author

Is everyone an artist? This question is fundamental in that it inculcates individual responsibility, and furthermore delineates an image of humankind, acts as a definition of art, and provides scope for action. This question can, however, only be considered, dealt with, and answered together. 

Take the example of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). Here, science is searching for the elementary particle in order to study the smallest components of matter itself. 

If we now look at TONALiSTEN (a new organisation for cultural innovation), we glimpse how the artistic community seeks to tease out the creative force in every individual, for the “future of humanity” can only come about if this creative force is released. TONALiSTEN sees itself as at the epicentre of where people from the most diverse fields might work together to discover the answer to the initial question, share individual insights, and open up specific areas for activity. 

By way of transferal thinking, this form of collaborative research, a focused seeking for artistic relevance in a heterogeneous and transculturally shaped society, is particularly well illustrated by the phenomenon of chamber music. 

But this form of music-making is only successful where all participants have the best possible command of their own parts, where they have penetrated and got to the very heart of the function and meaning of their different voices (down to the smallest detail), and where they devote themselves to the success of the whole by skilfully integrating their individual voices into the final sound of the complete score in real time. 

Adeptness of one’s own part presupposes an acquired creative ability, an artistic soul, unstinting practice, a differentiated preoccupation with the score, the thematic material of the work, and the composer’s persona, as well as with the time in which the piece was written. 

On the occasion of the first rehearsal, participants share their understanding of the score that is finally to be delivered, develop an approach that is both conceptual and aesthetic, agree on a working method, generate a common musical language, and aurally imagine the concert in which the work is to be performed on a certain day with the participation of a specific audience. 

A communal musical language can only be engendered where the theory of harmony is used artistically, where all players understand exactly and at every moment exactly what colour and structure any note in a chord should take, and where the preceding and continuing connections to a musical moment in time are crystal clear. That is not all: a common musical language needs to be based not only harmonical relationships, but also absorb the parameters of rhythm, agogic accents, as well as phrasing. Taken on its own, each field requires the same understanding and situational complete skill as described here using the example of harmony. 

In concert, a great moment can come to pass. This defining glory corresponds to that of our experience of freedom. Not only everything but also the resultant all grows out of and hence beyond itself. It is not the musicians who play, but the “it” that plays. Thence does music become “materialised” by the work that took place in rehearsal, and this great moment can realise “spiritual potential” in us and all. Whoever experiences this as a fully sentient individual or – this in the sense of received wisdom – as someone in the line of immediate reception, knows intuitively that the human being generally, and indeed all human beings are capable of these great things, of these great moments that they hold at their disposition. 

If our approach to the answer demanded by the initial question is cast in the vein of chamber music, it becomes clear what conclusions can be drawn from music-making itself: first, a community, i.e. society, can only develop where individuals actively school themselves; simultaneously, secondly, each person must be ready to contribute in a compelling and holistic manner, thus giving rise to a sense of sounding and resounding together. 

Let us make it clear that this kind of sonic communion in no way corresponds to an opportunistic playing along. It is not a type of synchronous or, indeed, synchronized activity that will metamorphose into an artistic musical language; rather, it there is a need to act in the sense of carrying out the demands of a score, of contradicting the other voices if necessary, of agreeing with them, and actually becoming a rhythmic framework, a structure, an accent, or a prominent melody or theme. 

The permanent readiness to transform one’s own actions in the service of a superordinate statement, which at the same time carries within it the quality of an empathically open question, corresponds to an interplay of forces that signify “futurity”. 

Of course, the ego is necessary where it becomes the instrument of a sociality. The ego becomes a sociality where it reflects on its creative potential, trains this, and is ready to share everything that has now become ability. 

Thus, it is not self-referentiality that validates the person, but the willingness to make sacrifices, which are carried out through the artistic actions an individual. Such artistic activity succeeds where the person has become comprehensively part of a present state, where that individual inspires personal decisions subordinate to the common interest, where that person can imagine future consequences and can inculcate empathy in the sense of acting as a sounding board. 


Amadeus Templeton is a cellist and cultural manager as well as Managing Partner of TONALi gGmbH and TONALiSTEN gGmbH.