A Kind of Magic

by Mark Dvorak

I had a nice dinner recently at a great Italian restaurant. The table conversation began with warm greetings, and news about work and other busyness. Over wine and calamari, updates on family members were shared, and an announcement came forth that someone had a new boyfriend. 

Then came a compliment on someone else’s new hairstyle. By the time the salad and pasta had arrived, things had shifted again over to sports and the latest movies. And then poilitcs. More wine please.

We humans are social animals. We love to share opinions and information. We also tend sometimes towards gossip, passing along bits of scuttlebutt picked up from here and there. Through socializing, we get to gain credibility and improve our standing. In the social realm we get to appear clever and interesting. Friendships are shaped, and new associations are begun. 

Whether it be a group of chatty new moms feathering their nests, or a bunch of gear heads hanging out in the garage comparing their proverbial horsepower, a common social platform is mostly a place of familiarity and comfort.

But in art, when it is done well, lots of discomfort is involved. As are large amounts of risk. And come to think of it, there’s hardly any talking. Painters and writers gaze into the great blank eternity of paper, canvas and screen. Dancers and singers practice and drill in solitary preparation. Musicians of all kinds, work through the complications of rhythm, phrasing and harmony by themselves, in the confines of their private rehearsal space.

And when it comes time for the public performance or exhibition, there is only the work, the audience, and that’s it.

And the whole thing takes place in a place different than the setting of a dinner conversation; different again than our chit-chat over pints at the pub.

Your performance can be meticulously rehearsed down to each precise motion and detail, or it can be off-the-cuff spontaneous in ordering and execution. What it can’t be is social. While a dinner conversation goes around the table from person to person, from topic to topic, a musical performance, however casual or formal, demands a more singular narrative. It is a chance to share, in artistic terms, the personal adventure that is yours alone to offer. And we in the audience get to come along for a while. Or at least we get to glimpse into it for a spell.

Imagine a social situation where one person dominates the conversation and subject matter for the evening. Chances are there’d be nothing clever nor interesting about it. Chances are it wouldn’t be much fun. And the chances are you and me would be looking for an early exit. Hey, I know this great Italian place. 

Yet each of us will spend money to sit for a long time while our favorite bands and singers unfold a performance that is at once musical, and reflective of what is already resonant in our own lives.

There is a place inside that draws us towards music, and is touched while listening to music. That place is somewhere very near the same place from where music comes, inside the musicians who are singing and playing. It’s the same place, and the interaction at its core is neither social nor cognitive.

It happens somewhere beyond all those little clever and interesting things we gab about with family and friends. It’s a kind of magic, and it is very real.


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