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On That Note: Finding Love and Humanity in Music

Robert Cohen

Music and love have long been interconnected. And even if a piece or a song is not directly about love, the person performing it has to approach it with an open heart - along with technique and skill.

It’s a familiar refrain for our On That Note contributor, cellist Robert Cohen. 

"From a musician's point of view, we're in that incredible, fortunate position of dealing with this every day of our lives," he says. "But we're equally able to forget how much that love is 90% of what we're doing."

Cohen admits that finding the love in a piece of music becomes complicated when it conveys a sense of anger or sadness, or when you simply don't like the piece you're playing. He compares it to having a conversation with someone you don't like, it's a struggle to get through it and the music can sound strained as a result. 

"Music is written by somebody, and therefore it is a person whose thoughts and feelings you're supposed to be expressing for them," says Cohen. 

Sometimes musicians have to dig deep to find the love and humanity in the pieces they play. But when they do, Cohen believes it enhances the quality of the music and the experience of listening to it.

"When you feel really comfortable when you're playing and you feel that flexibility and your attention is on the love of the music, and what the music is giving to you. That freedom pushes you in a very natural way to take risks and be daring," he says. "And then that makes it even more exciting."

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
For 35 years one of the worlds leading cello soloist, Robert Cohen is an award-winning recording artist, conductor, artistic director and pedagogue who has been broadcast on TV and radio throughout the world. His passionate views on the art of learning, performing and communicating music have been widely published.