Why do we do the things we do? (This isn't an existentially angsty post.) I started thinking about this after our senior week Chamber Singers concert. We chose an ambitious amount of music to learn, worked hard at it, and generally agreed that we pulled it off as well as could be expected. But I think most of us didn't really enjoy giving imperfect performances of songs we could probably have learned nearly flawlessly with more time. Who did it benefit then? The audience? If so, why do we always thank our friends for coming in a slightly apologetic tone of voice? And why does half the audience fall asleep? Maybe it benefited our conductor, then. I know he appreciated all the work and effort we put it, but judging by his repertoire of expressions ranging from anxious to stricken, he was relieved we made it through the concert without any train wrecks. I would bet that the reigning sentiment in that concert hall at the end of the program was relief. So what possible justification did we have for creating an experience that was slightly uncomfortable for everyone involved?
I feel similarly about the new Ayres CD (and the old one, for that matter). Now, I think it's really cool that I'm on a CD, and recording it was a fun if exhausting experience. But it's not like I sit down and listen to it. I would far rather be singing those songs than hearing them. And I have to wonder who actually does listen to our CD. Madrigals have a limited audience anyway, and when you could be listening to the King's Singers, why would you listen to the Middlebury Mountain Ayres? Yes, we're quite good for a college a cappella group, but I'm fully aware that there are better versions of those songs out there in the world. Most of my friends have bought CDs, but I have no expectation that they're going to end up on their iTunes most played lists. Basically, we've created a product of very little actual usefulness to anyone, rather like those little knicknacks that are so cute you just have to have them but end up sitting around collecting dust.
Please don't get me wrong. I love singing in Chambers and recording a CD was a neat opportunity. Sometimes I just have to stop and wonder what purpose all these things have.