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Kate Little

To Spin Out Sound

September 3, 2015 07:19

In music, everything is conveyed through sound. Rhythm, intonation, phrasing, style, music– none of this can be detected unless sound exists first. Like clay for a potter, or marble for a sculptor, sound is the material with which a musician creates. And how does she create sound? By spinning it out.

What does this mean, “to spin out sound?"

Think of a thread being spun from a spinning wheel. What are the qualities that a useful thread will have? It will be long, continuous, even, smooth, solid, and without defect. It will be reliable for whatever purpose it is meant. So it is with elemental sound. A good musician can create sound which is long, continuous, even, smooth, solid, and without defect: reliable. How easy is this to do on the violin? Not very.

Typical flaws include crunching, scratching, pitch variation, airiness, gaps: Problems due to tension and lack of coordination in the bow arm. Training the bow arm to create reliable, beautiful sound takes a good ear, good feedback, and practice. Lots and lots of practice. In the end, like anything well made, sound production can be neither mentally directed nor forced. Reliable sound that can be formed into a musical piece is created with a relaxed, well-coordinated right arm that responds seamlessly to musical thought. It happens by feel.

(This essay was woven from ideas articulated in a lesson given by Utah Symphony violinist David Porter.)

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