He Never Makes A Sound


The Conductor never makes a sound . . . right?

Well, in listening now to several of the videos, DVDs and CDs of both Ben Zanders's presentations and also the BPO performing Beethoven's 5th and 7th, I have begun to hear that the conductor does make a sound.

It is the sound of breathing.

The sound of breathing is more than just the fluid turbulence of the vital intake of oxygen, and the exhale of carbon dioxide once the muscles have extracted and converted, but the sound of breathing is orders of magnitude more meaningful.

A sigh at the end of the day - coming Home. The sharp intake of air during surprise. The rapid rhythm of excitement. The panting of exhaustion. All these breathing sounds convey more than just the physicality of our existence - they convey the emotion and passion of life.

When I listen now to the Symphonies, I pay careful attention to when the Conductor breathes faster and more urgently, and when bows of the cellos accidentally strike the instruments in a flurry of speed, or when the Conductor respires gently and the piccolo of the violins is so soft you can hear the flicker of music sheets.

Technically, these sounds are not part of the score. But remove them and the music becomes two dimensional. Include them and the music is animated with life and vigour.

I wonder if we fully can know the effects of our breathing on others. The breath that sustains our physical life may also be the very breath that sustains our souls, in the hearing of another's.