Playing, listening on one buttock

Benjamin Zander

We got an email the other day with a link to a Benjamin Zander lecture on music and passion. This Mahler-Beethoven interpreter is a marvelous lecturer and demonstrator of the power of classical music. He tells and shows us the difference between rote playing on the beat and passionate playing that takes us off both buttocks and puts us squarely, or edgily, on one.

Benjamin Zander shows and tells about musical passion. (Click on image above.)

One of Zander’s disciples, a pianist and entrepreneur, changed his approach not only to music but business, and declared he now had a one-buttock company!

Can we as players and listeners put ourselves on the edge of the seat? How do we do it? And how can we not?

To be on the edge of the seat is something we might expect when we’re engaged in a gripping book. And we’re unaware of each word, page, or image. We get a sense of the sweep of the story — in the same way a musician takes us up on the wings of the line of the piece he or she is playing. Lifts us up, yes, off both butt cheeks and takes us at least a little bit into the empyrean.

I suppose this phenomenon, as trivial as it might seem, is at least part of what we mean by sublimation. And by the sublimity of the musical experience.

Oh, yes, Ben Zander? You can see and hear him by clicking here.

Posted in audience, emotion and tagged , , , .


  1. Thank you for posting the link to this Ben Zander clip, it is fantastic! I had the great fortune to be a student musician in his New England Conservatory youth orchestra way back in the 70s. He was inspiring to us then and obviously has continued to inspire all ages and in unique settings.

  2. He seems to use body and soul in equal measure in his teaching, playing & pedagogy. Must’ve been a rare bird to work with, yes? The bit about the buttocks reminds me of the lady with one buttock in Voltaire’s Candide, and she made it over the Andes with that limited equipment! Think of what we all can do with both! Make beautiful music, no doubt, a la the Musical Offering.

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