We introduce another member of Cremona Musica Media Lounge: Dutch journalist, pianist and writer Eric Schoones. He is currently editor of the new German magazine “Pianist” and also writes for “International Piano” and for the Dutch magazine “Luister”. His latest book is titled “Walking up the Mountain Track – The Zen Way to Enlightened Musicianship”.
What does it mean for you to be a classical music critic today?
«I recently interviewed Daniele Gatti and he said: ‘At the concert, everyone in the audience hears the same music. And I find this fascinating, because people have very different reactions, possibly as a result of their experience during the day. Perhaps somebody’s stocks went up, a grandchild was born, another may have had an accident or a problem with his fiancé… Everybody is naked facing the music, even the critics, although they might consider themselves to be objective, without emotions, which of course is impossible.’ Interesting point, and I must say I don’t really like to see myself as a ‘critic’ and I don’t particularly like to write concert reviews, because I know my appreciation of a performance surely is influenced by things that have to do with me, and not with the performance or the performing artist. So who am I to judge? Of course, a review can be interesting but one must always remember it is one highly subjective opinion of one person at one particular moment. So it doesn’t really matter that much, although reviews are still very important for musicians, praise in a review can open doors, whereas the opposite is also true. Are critics always aware of this responsibility? I also would advise every critic to play a concert himself from time to time, just to remember how demanding that actually is».
How do you see the influence of internet and of the social media in the way people perceive classical music?
«In the early days of television, mass communication, people thought it could be a perfect tool to educate or even elevate the public, but it mainly has done the opposite and although nowadays we can listen to music from any culture, any era, any moment of the day, which of course is a wonderful thing. Technology, social media and the internet change our world and the way we see our world in a fundamental way and this is likely to distract us from essentials, like inner silence and personal development».
You are also editor of a classical music magazine, “Pianist”. What are the priorities and the goal of your role?
«My main priority is to share the love for music, art, beauty and truth. To offer something away from everyday concerns. I think art in general, but music especially, can be essential in life, because through art and music you can discover your own true self (as Celibidache said), in a more profound way, and that is a most beautiful thing: to know yourself and to be amazed by the things we fail to understand. If a magazine can help to inspire and inform, so more people can experience things like this, I think it is a very worthwhile cause. Although we should always remember it is not really essential to ‘know’ many things about classical music in order to be able to appreciate its message and content».
Your recent book is about music and zen. How did you decide to explore this area?
«The subject has been with me for over two decades, and it has become more and more fundamental to me, because I learned that ‘everything is connected’, which happens to be the title of a book by Daniel Barenboim by the way. I feel this very strongly. I published five books on sustainability, circular economy and climate change so far and I now present a program called Sustainable Notes, together with Sofie Dhondt, a wonderful jazz-singer, and we explain circular economy in musical terms, going from classical to pop, jazz, rap etc., also because I am convinced that music and art can be a very important factor in society, as Leonard Bernstein said: ‘The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed… because people are changed by art – enriched, ennobled, encouraged – they then act in a way that may affect the course of events… by the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.’ This is, in my opinion, very important although, very unfortunately, politicians and governments all over the world, fail to understand the impact art can have».
Can you give some suggestion to young students who are trying to make a career as classical musicians?
«‘Trying to make a career’, is already a big mistake. Forget about career. Think about music, ‘Music should be served, not used’, Dinu Lipatti’s motto and Rachmaninoff said: ‘Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.’ Nobody now playing concerts can compare to these giants, and they didn’t really think about ‘having a career’. Or more recently Arcadi Volodos: ‘I never tried to accomplish anything, that’s not my way, that’s not who I am. I never try to impress the public, I am not interested in a fast success. The process is important not the goal, and I only care about playing the piano. I like to achieve something step by step, and without effort. The process is important, not the effect on the public nor the success.’ In this respect we can learn much from the basic attitude of Zen masters like Shunryu Suzuki».
How zen changed or influenced your approach to music, both as a music critic and as a musician?
«I don’t really think it changed my approach to music, it just made me more aware of these things and I am very grateful for that».