Also available in: Italiano
Dutch journalist, pianist and writer, Eric Schoones currently editor of the new German magazine “Pianist” and also writes for International Piano and for the Dutch magazine “Luister”. He just published the book Walking up the Mountain Track – The Zen Way to Enlightened Musicianship.
What does it mean for you to be a music critic today?
“Recently I interviewed Daniele Gatti, and he said, ‘At the concert, everyone in the audience listens to the same music. And it’s fascinating that people have very different reactions, perhaps as a result of their experience during the day: someone has taken stock, someone has been born a grandchild, another may have had an accident or a problem with his girlfriend… But everyone is naked in front of the music: even the critics. Even if we strive to be objective, without being influenced by our emotions, this is obviously impossible.’
This is an interesting point, and I have to say that I don’t really like to consider myself a “critic”, and I don’t particularly like writing concert reviews, because I know that my appreciation for a performance is definitely influenced by things that have to do with me, and not with the performance or with the artist who performs.
So, who am I to judge? Of course, a review can be interesting for readers, but you should always remember that it is a very subjective opinion of a person at a given time. So reviews have relative value, although they are still very important for musicians: an enthusiastic review can open many doors, while the opposite is also true. I wonder if critics are always aware of this responsibility… I also advise every critic to play a concert from time to time, to remember how challenging this is.”
How do you think the internet and social media can affect the way people perceive classical music?
“In the early days of television and mass communication, people thought it was a perfect tool to educate or even elevate the public. In fact, television has had the opposite effect. Today we can listen to music of every style, and of every era, at any time of the day, which of course is a wonderful thing. But technology, social media and the internet change our world, and the way we perceive it, and this risks distracting us from the most important things, such as inner silence and personal development.”
She is also the editor of a new German classical music magazine, “Pianist”. What are the priorities and the purpose of your role?
“My main priority is to share a love of music, art, beauty and truth, to offer something far from everyday concern. I think that art in general, but especially music, can be essential in life, because through art and music everyone will be able to discover their interiority in a deeper way (as Celibidache said), and this is the most beautiful thing: to know ourselves and to marvel at the things we do not understand. If a magazine can help inspire and inform, so that more people can experience things like this, I think it’s a very useful cause. Although we must always remember that you don’t really need to be connoisseurs of classical music in order to appreciate its message and its content.”
His recent book is about the relationship between music and zen. Why did you decide to explore this theme?
“For more than two decades I have been reflecting on the relationship between music and Zen, and it has been increasingly clear to me that “everything is connected”, to quote the title of a book by Daniel Barenboim (translated into Italian under the title “Music is a whole”). I have published five books on sustainability, the circular economy and climate change so far, and I am currently playing a program called “Sustainable Notes” in concert, together with Sofie Dhondt, a wonderful jazz singer: we try to explain the circular economy in musical terms, moving from classical to pop, jazz, rap. I am convinced that music and art can be very important factors in society, as Leonard Bernstein said: ‘Art has never stopped a war and has never got anyone a job: this is not its function. Art can’t change events, but it can change people. It can affect people so that they have changed. And when people have changed, because their spirit is ennobled, encouraged and enriched by art, they act in a way that can influence the course of events: in their electoral choices, in their behaviors and in their way of thinking.’ This is, in my opinion, very important, although, unfortunately, politicians and governments around the world are struggling to understand the profound impact that art can have on people.”
Can you give any suggestions to young students who are trying to pursue a career as classical musicians?
“Trying to pursue a career” is already a big mistake in itself. Forget your career and think about music: ‘Music must be served, not used’ was Dinu Lipatti’s motto. Rachmaninoff said: ‘Music is enough for life, but a lifetime is not enough for music.’ No current concert pianist can confront these giants; and they didn’t think about making a career. More recently, Arcadi Volodos said: ‘I’ve never played to achieve a specific goal – it’s not my way of acting, it’s not in my nature. I never play to impress the audience, or to achieve rapid success. The path of the goal is more important, and I’m only interested in playing the piano. I like to improve step by step and of course, effortlessly. It’s important our personal journey, not the effect on the audience, not the outward success.’ In this sense, we can learn a lot from the approach of some Zen masters, such as Shunryu Suzuki.”
How has Zen changed or influenced his approach to music, both as a critic and as a musician?
“I don’t think Zen has changed my approach to music, but it has certainly made me much more aware of these things.”