PICNIC ’08 – Itay Talgam Interview
This is an excerpt of an interview with Israeli conductor Itay Talgam done by Markus Huendgen during Picnic ’08 (26.09.2008). Talgam illustrates how conducting an orchestra can be a metaphor for the collaboration of people in general. The interview on video can be seen here.
Itay Talgam: “Conducting is somewhat different from being a manager. It has not exactly the same meaning as being dirigent or chef or even leader. In english orchestras the leader is the first violin player. But the conductor has another job. He has to make people connect. So it is about connectivity, about becoming a conductor to enable other people to work together. So that is quite a funny profession. In internet, I guess people are very much interested in the ways people come to collaborate and to create together. There was this notion- you just open a site and other people come in and all is very well. But in order to achieve something you need a sort of a guiding hand. It is not as Clay Shirky put it today, it is not complete democratic, égalité– so how do you manage to on one hand direct, to bring the people together towards a goal and on the other hand still enable them to feel completely free in their personal motivations, how to do?
I think great conductors have come up with quite interesting answers. Of course that was before the time of the internet, so it is a traditional thing. And yet it can be translated as a metaphor for what is happening now. Herbert von Karajan was a wonderful conductor in his own way. But his own way was: he never looked at people. He always closed his eyes, implying: “I do not have to look at you because you look at me. The music is the music playing in my head. So what you have to do is to guess my mind and then come up with an organization.” That was wonderful on one hand because it made the players sort of interpreters of what he did. On the other hand he was the only one who was creating an interpretation. All the rest has just to be a reflection to what he was. That is why he was conducting so undecisive unlike other conductors who just tell you what to do. You see, if you look behind it it has a double meaning: I trust you but I trust you to do what I want.
I would say almost anything in the world can become a good metaphor if you have the ability to translate it. Music is a great metaphor – for everything, if you think about education, if you think about business, if you think about culture in general and internet culture also. But there has to be the ability to build a bridge in between. I think that is one of the most important things we learn here in this conference: how people really build bridges among different disciplines. And therefore are able to see what they do in a new light.”