Prof. Jerzy Marchwiñski


Partnership in Music.


The explanation of the concept.



  My personal Decalogue, or rather Dodecalogue of Partnership in Music, is a statement of fundamental values which help develop successful partnerships and which does not require any special commentary or elaboration. Although its reflections are purely personal, their contents seem quite universal to me.
  The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines partnership in the following way: “Partnership, voluntary association of two or more persons for the purpose of managing a business enterprise and sharing its profits or losses”.

  Britannica, possibly the best encyclopaedia worldwide, has provided a seemingly perfect definition. It encompasses everything, clearly and concisely. Nothing more, nothing less.
  However, after having read it I recalled an excellent, wise and significant story told by Abba Eban, about an inquisitive student who asked his master, a Rabbi, if the whole Torah could be reduced just to one sentence. The answer was, “Yes, naturally: ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour’. This is the whole Torah. The rest is a commentary”. (I suspect that the reply of the master was spiced with a philosophical smile!).
  Partnership seems to be a similar case. The encyclopaedic definition provides an essence reduced to one brief sentence, and obviously it can always be supplemented with a commentary. The commentary that follows is an expansion of the essence derived from my personal experiences and thoughts, therefore I would never venture to think, even for a moment, about providing a universal one.
  Let me begin from a reflection that everything that is good between people, does not happen by itself. All the culture and all creative relations between men require effort, involvement, wisdom, persistence, even devotion and other similar, related values.
  From among a number of values I have chosen twelve that to me are the most important to discuss in my personal commentary, without arranging them in any hierarchical order. Just a kind of “The Dodecalogue of Partnership in Music”. I hope they may serve as a group of elements necessary to create a reasonably coherent whole.
  The indispensable, basic condition for a musician is to achieve the highest possible level of professional skill. I do not mean here any universal benchmark, but rather the current level which allows the partnership between pupils, between students, and finally, between already mature artists.
  Here are my 12 values:
The first value: Shared responsibility for the whole performance
  A soloist performs a musical work on his own, and is solely responsible for it. His is the success and his is the failure. He does not have to reckon with anybody or anything.
  The responsibility for a partner-like ensemble performance is of dual character: besides the part of the work performed by an individual artist, it concerns also the value of the whole work. Therefore, ensemble performer should be constantly aware that his contribution, if meagre, will degrade the whole performance depreciating the effort and involvement of the other participants.
The second value: Reciprocity
  It is impossible to imagine a one-sided partnership, or similarly, a one-sided friendship, in their true senses. Both connecting people relations absolutely require reciprocity. Perhaps love, the third one, when unrequited, is somewhat imaginable. But any expectations of happiness and success on the part of an infatuated person are his or her personal problem, and the responsibility is also his or hers.
  I have always thought - allow me to quote myself - that the fact that I love you it neither binds you to anything, nor licenses me to anything.
The third value: Understanding the partner
  I perceive understanding both, in the literal and wider sense. The understanding in the literal, simpler sense also seems significant, perhaps contrary to appearances, because every person, even when speaking the same, native language, expresses his thoughts and chooses his vocabulary following their own characteristic pattern. Each of us has an individual sense of humour and a style of approaching others. Various, quite common misunderstandings which often are so irritating, mostly result from such seemingly trifling details.
  The wider meaning of this aspect reaches deeper into the domain of psychology, embracing the knowledge of individual features of a partner including his temperament and personality.
  Gender differences can also be significant. My musical partnership with men and women were often felt slightly differently. It could be considered insignificant from the purely professional viewpoint, but at the same time it is one of the nuances which may affect the comfort of being together.
The fourth value: Openness to dialogue
  I quite enjoy the adage that two monologues do not make up a dialogue. True enough, that the dialogue simply is not there, when each of the performers is focused only on his part without any contact with the utterances of the partner. This may concern equally the musical dialogue and a dialogue of everyday co-existence with another person as well.
The fifth value: Readiness to understand the otherness of the partner
  Although it is generally known that every man is unique and one of a kind, this fact is surprisingly often forgotten in everyday relations. This is particularly true for a long-lasting arrangement with one or more partners. The understandable differences may turn often into a problem when initial attraction gives way to almost unavoidable irritation.
  Also, it is not so easy to accept the fact that the readiness to understand the otherness of the partner is reciprocal, and my partner should be equally willing to understand my idiosyncrasies as I understand and accept his.
  The awareness of this phenomenon is invaluable as it greatly facilitates all and any ventures into this delicate and extremely sensitive territory.
The sixth value: Internal space
  I mean primarily the space for thoughts which allow partners a relatively conflict-free co-existence and collaboration, free from doctrines, narrowed aesthetic preferences, and world-outlook bias, moral and even historic encumbrances, not to mention traces of racial connotations.
  Such space provides also a considerable luxury of working with a partner, ensuring almost absolute guarantee of the freedom of artistic expression without any risk to the comfort of being together.
The seventh value: Ability of hearing the partner and oneself at the same time
  This ability is one of the fundamental differences between solo and ensemble performance. The fact that the soloist hears only himself is by no means a discovery. In turn, an ensemble performer must – really must – hear himself perfectly and at the same time hear and understand the part performed by his partner. I am quite sure that it is not only an ability but also a skill which can be taught and practised.
  I do not see any special reason to explain how important and valuable such hearing is for the fascination in the creation of performing art. Well, this obligation of hearing and understanding the partner should actually refer both to performing together and to ordinary, everyday being together with another person, shouldn't it?
The eighth value: Good manners in togetherness
  It is worthwhile to remind that good manners should be obligatory for being together with another person in any circumstances, both in professional and in private life. Any joint or shared activity demands good mannered behaviour and reciprocal communication. When under pressure, the culture, tact and goodwill mentioned above, amplified by ordinary, human kindness aimed at solving problems, become invaluable.
The ninth value: Tactful reduction of tension
  It seems obvious to me that certain tensions are unavoidable in any partnership, even the most comprehensive and perfect. It would be naive to think that partnership is just cakes and ale forever.
  The tensions may stem from the richness of human nature, but they may also result from seemingly trifling situations which sometimes carry a hidden potential for a more serious conflict. When such tensions do emerge, the ability to solve them tactfully is simply priceless.
  It seems that struggle is an inherent aspect of the essence of humanity. It is important, though, that the vectors of forces involved in any struggle should be directed towards the common good, not one against another.
  It is also worth remembering that certain discomfort experienced by me in the proximity of another person can be mutual, and the partner may also feel uncomfortable with me. (Ah, this reciprocity requirement in partnership never ends!)
The tenth value: The ability to accept compromise
  Any attempts at uniformity usually end up in a failure. Compromise seems an obvious approach to the sensitive issue of divergent aesthetic preferences.
  Certain divergences and interpretation nuances stem from understandable individual differences, and they can even make the performance more attractive and colourful. This is the very space for compromise which allows for the otherness and the comfort of speech.
  I also find it highly comfortable to acknowledge that the interpretation of a musical phrase does not necessarily have to be identical for all the performers in the ensemble; all of them are professionals and, probably, none will propose any musical nonsense.
The eleventh value: Respect in the partner
  In addition to the obvious respect for professional skill, this refers also to purely humanistic values, to the approach to life, interactions with others and even the ability to cope with challenges and various co-existential problems – in brief, to all the facets which combine into a full personality.
The twelfth value: Understand imperfections of my partner... and myself
  The English adage Nobody is perfect is not just a handy phrase. The understanding and acknowledgement of this obvious, albeit inconspicuous truth protects against harmful irritation, let’s keep a distance from my own imperfections as well as my partner’s and possibly prevents destructive frustration and excessive quandary.
  As it has already been said, my commentary to the encyclopaedic definition is personal or even authorial. The dimension of the concept of partnership and partnership in music in particular is huge and it seems necessary to try to arrange its various elements in some order. The one which has been presented here hopefully provides a compact and quite precise image of this absolutely fascinating relationship gracing my professional and private life.
  I am also aware of the fact that my reflection on Partnership in Music may be considered as idealistic and not necessarily find its full interpretation in reality. However, in my struggle I sometimes console myself with the thought that even the Decalogue with its “Thou shalt not kill”, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” or “Thou shalt not steal” quite often fails to reflect the actual relations between people. Following my personal Dodecalogue, I have been calling and promoting in my practice, “Thou shalt be a partner”, for more than half of a century now, and yet “Be an accompanist” is what I still hear around much too often!




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