Rhinegold Christina McMaster: ‘Music is a shared experience, not a one-way dialogue’

Owen Mortimer

Shared experience

1:53, 24th April 2020

Pianist Christina McMaster introduces her new weekly series of meditation, yoga and music evenings, available online for free during the coronavirus lockdown

What has prompted you to share your music online during this difficult time?
I have been working for several months to create a digital version of my meditation, music and yoga experience called ‘Lie Down + Listen’. With the global situation as it is right now, it seems we need music for healing more than ever.

What repertoire have you chosen and why?
Lie Down + Listen includes music of all sorts from 16th century to minimalism, contemporary and my own improvisations. The meditations are tailored so that the ideas behind the music are brought to the forefront of each person’s mind. After that they can lie down and absorb the music. I think music which has a spiritual element at its core is important as there is a lot of questioning and soul-searching going on right now.

Classical music works well because it often comes from a moment of spiritual enlightenment. Flashy pianistic virtuosity of the 19th century which attracts us when we’re young feels less relevant right now. I am planning a meditation session followed by the second movement of Beethoven’s last sonata (Op 111), which is an epic spiritual experience. Music like that becomes a meditation in itself because you can’t help but be immersed and uplifted by it.

How does the experience differ from other live concerts and broadcasts you’ve given?
As a performer you always get a sense of a live audience, yet somehow I can still feel that energy online. On the other hand, live performances feel more significant because they offer the potential to help people in the moment. With Lie Down + Listen, I’ve found that more experienced, traditional concertgoers say they feel uncomfortable lying down in front of others! An online experience may therefore be more suitable for them. Being in the comfort of your own home makes it feel more personal. That’s important because music is a shared experience, not a one-way dialogue. Personalising your environment makes home listeners more involved.

I’ve worked hard to get the setup right for Lie Down + Listen, including learning how to position the microphones to get a good sound. I’ve had some great feedback on that, which is very encouraging – sound is everything.

Do you think the lockdown will change the way we share music in the future?
I certainly think that this experience has forced a lot of new collaborations and creativity. For example, I had planned a summer of wellness festivals but most of these are now moving onto digital platforms. I see this as a positive collaborative opportunity because it allows me to bring forward a lot of my creative projects: I don’t need to travel, just get online.

When we are on the other side of this, I believe we’ll treasure live performances more. I’d like to think we’ll keep questioning the way music needs to be experienced.

Lie Down + Listen Online launches on Friday 24 April with a guided meditation on the theme of ‘Peace’, featuring piano music by Bach, Bill Evans, Dowland and Ligeti. Visit the website for more details: liedownandlisten.com

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