Mr. Bean a.k.a., Rowan Atkinson, is so creative. His stint here as a conductor of Beethoven's 5th Symphony is funny. He really is re-interpreting the music. You must watch. Okay, go ahead. Do it with him.
A conductor or director also interprets the music but all that happens long before the actual performance.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that the difference between the words conductor and director were worth discussion. In many cases the words are used interchangeably. However, I feel the director is as also the one who helps the group to interpret the music while they practise.
Leonard Bernstein is my favourite director. I loved watching his sessions with all sorts of musical groups and even on the old shaky 16 mm film and noisy projectors, you could see his passion and better yet his transference of that passion to the musicians before him. He explained and allowed the players to explore the music. The collaborative effort was a beautiful thing.
There are certainly accepted standards for how to move your hands and arms to express the music. Watching YouTube sessions of conducting classes is interesting indeed. Hector Berlioz and Richard Wagner were most influential in setting modern standards for the art of conducting accepted today. This picture of Berlioz shows how, when he started to conduct, he used overly large movements. He worked very hard to make his future movements more understandable and less flamboyant. He and Wagner also wrote extensively about how to conduct correctly.
Conducting can be like dancing. You can learn the moves but until you put your heart into the movement, giving life to the music, you are just making some interesting movements. Have you watched the movie, Shall We Dance? Now, there are some fine dance moves and a great understanding of effects of passion.
The musical direction part of conducting is the trickiest but to me the most fun. One must not be so bent on having the music played or sung in a preconceived form that there is no room for collaboration.
Bernstein famously worked with Glenn Gould whose interpretations were very different from the norm. Although Bernstein did not agree with Gould, he was fascinated by his talent. He accepted that Gould had a different view and his respect for that allowed them to create some profound musical moments.
You can just conduct by waving your hands in time to the music or truly direct with understanding between you and the musicians so that you create a unique musical presentation. Then, of course, there is always the Rowan Atkinson method. Tee, hee.