April 13, 2016

"But the baton can also shape the sound. The nature of the downbeat — how abrupt, how delicate..."

"... tells the orchestra what kind of sound character to produce. The baton can smooth out choppy phrases by moving through the beat in a more sweeping way. A more horizontal motion can create a more lyrical quality... A downward stroke that imitates a violin bowing movement... 'Basically the hands are there to describe a certain space of the sound and to shape that imaginary material... It’s easier when there is nothing in one hand.'... A baton can work against a singing sound... 'Most difficult in conducting is to make the orchestra sing, and this is where both hands have to basically help wind or string players sing.' Hitting the air with a stick, he said, is like fencing: 'I don’t think it helps the sound.'"

From a 2012 NYT article about what orchestra conductors are doing with their hands, which I found after identifying with Rex Parker, who had trouble with a clue in today's crossword puzzle:
The clue on WANDS is so hard! (68A: They may be waved at concerts). I assume these are the metal detector WANDS they might "wave" over you as you enter to make sure you're not packing? I can't imagine what other WANDS could be at issue. Well, whether it's security WANDS or some other WANDS I don't understand: hard [UPDATE: so ... everyone says it's conductors that wave WANDS. I'm sure this is right, but I am also sure this is wrong. Conductors. Wave. Batons. They aren't. Bleeping. Magicians. Thank you.]
The only "wands" I could begin to think of at concerts were those damned glow stick things.

27 comments:

Whirred Whacks said...

I initially had HANDS, before the cross (GNAW) turned it into WANDS.

My first thought was CIGARETTE LIGHTERS, but it didn't fit.

Big Mike said...

My first thought was that only the culturally illiterate would refer to a conductor's baton as a "wand," however the online Dictionary.com defines baton as "a wand used by a conductor."

I'd have had trouble with that one for the same reason you did. Good thing for me I prefer Sudoku puzzles to crosswords.

Jason said...

NOBODY calls those things "wands."

I used to be a conductor.

Well, high school band director. Not exactly the London Philharmonic. But still.

Hagar said...

Sticks?

Unknown said...

OED cites this 1884 usage.

"1884 Yorks. Post 30 Apr. It was Costa, who founded in England the order of conductor, and who introduced the wand as baton in lieu of the fiddlestick."

That said - "Hermes' caduceus" would have been a better clue.

Michael said...

There's "right" and there's close enough for crossword puzzles, which could be the eighth definition in the dictionary or a specific example or a general category. You have to know how these people think.

Fernandinande said...

google [conductor waves a] produced the suggestion "stick".

Sebastian said...

Weird. Were they just trying to get a laugh out of white people in Murray's upper-class bubble?

Clark said...

The crosses forced it on me, but I didn't like it. Turns out it is in four of the five dictionaries I just checked, so I guess it's legit. Tough puzzle for a Wednesday.

Paddy O said...

Batons are pedestrian. Wands are magical and fancy. The conductor isn't waving a stick, he's magically producing the sound from the inanimate entities sitting before him.

Expecto Sonata!

Paddy O said...

And always make sure to call them Maestro.

Darconville said...

Wow, the use in the NYT article of sculpture as a verb--"she sculptures", "sculpturing"--is really irritating.

Ann Althouse said...

Another thing is that it was a Wednesday puzzle. There's an expectation about the degree of misdirection and weirdness in the clues for each day of the week. That wasn't Wednesdayish.

Larry J said...

Many years ago, I read an article by someone who claimed an ideal society would function like a symphony orchestra. Each person would be performing to the best of his/her ability to contribute to a greater good.

In essence, they were advocating for a centrally managed society of New Soviet Men. I wondered who would get to call the tune and wave the baton.

Bill R said...

The last word on the subject.

http://www.memes.com/img/2829

traditionalguy said...

And then there was Robert Shaw. He directed the ASO and often with a large Chorale as part of the same Concert. Those sitting too close ( Center Orchestra Rows 1 or 2) would get Shaw sweat drops on them at no extra charge.

Char Char Binks said...

Robert Shaw was the G. G. Allin of classical music.

MayBee said...

Mozart of the Jungle on Amazon Prime is a very enjoyable series. Roughly based on Gustavo Dudamel.

If you are into wands.

Sigivald said...

Isn't the true lesson here "never read the Times"?

rhhardin said...

Magicians do things only with wands so that their hands never enter the trick.

rhhardin said...

I've been in many orchestras and choruses and never paid any attention to the conductor.

iqvoice said...

My favorite conductor uses a toothpick.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nyx99YcHdIQ

Fred Drinkwater said...

My High School's senior orchestra class gave their director a steel baton, because the wood ones could not stand up to his vigorous style (mostly he'd break them trying to regain their attention, they being a bunch of 16 and 17 year olds).

Beldar said...

I've been a trumpet player for more than 45 years, and I've played in dozens and dozens of different ensembles of all different sorts.

Never once have I heard a conductor's baton called a "wand." I would have remembered.

Quaestor said...

Leopold Stokowski never used a wand, and yet produced some real magic.

Quaestor said...

Baton is just French for stick so we could just use the English and be done with it. Stick is a better synonym for baton etymologically than wand, which is from Middle English meaning a switch as in something used to discipline a lazy apprentice. Wand, or more correctly wond, derives from Old Norse vǫndr which means a leafy twig or sprig, so maybe the Vikings weren't too harsh on their naughty boys.

SeanF said...

Baton is specific, wand is general.

Saying, "It's a baton, not a wand," is like saying, "It's a square, not a rectangle."