The Conductor as Prism

The Power of Metaphor in Artistry

James Jordan

© 2017 GIA.

Item #: G-9533     Status: Available

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Series: Evoking Sound


All our truth, or all but a few fragments, is won by metaphor. We don’t grasp the meaning of a word or concept until we have a clear image to connect it with.

— C.S. Lewis


Understanding artistry and those “things” that contribute to honest and direct musical expression are concepts that are both difficult to teach and difficult for us to understand as conductors and teachers.

Born out of his teaching at The Choral Institute at Oxford each summer, James Jordan has realized the power of metaphor for teaching the highest artistic concepts involving human connection and deeper listening. The home of The Choral Institute at Oxford is St. Stephen’s House, the very place that C. S. Lewis worshipped.

In this book, Jordan adapts Lewis’s love of powerful and effective metaphors. Jordan uses metaphors as a guide to help conductors engage the most profound the concepts of artistry in music, concepts that are often elusive to teach or learn. These metaphors can be effective doorways to understand our role as artist teacher/conductors in new and vibrant ways.

In this book, Jordan explores:

  • The metaphor of conductor as a refractive prism connecting musicians to conductors within constant communicative connection
  • The light-generating source for conductors
  • The power of abiding
  • Polishing one’s metaphorical prism for the most powerful refraction to others
  • Rethinking the “sublime” in music making
  • Understanding and avoiding musical “kitsch”
  • The power of predictive audiation as ultimate trust
  • The artist’s necessary journey into loneliness

GRAMMY-nominated conductor James Jordan is Professor and Senior Conductor at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. He is conductor of the internationally acclaimed Westminster Williamson Voices and the Westminster Schola Cantorum, and is Artistic Director and Conductor of The Same Stream ( He is Director of The Westminster Conducting Institute and is Co-Director along with James Whitbourn of The Choral Institute at Oxford.

James Jordan talks about his new work, Conductor As Prism:

Number of Pages: 224

Format: Softcover

Discipline: Choir