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The Weekend Vote

V.com weekend vote: How do you feel about movement during performance?

January 8, 2010 at 7:05 PM


Let's face it, some people move a lot when they play, whether it's the leader of a string quartet, a soloist or an orchestra player. Is this okay?

I've seen reviewers skewer performers because they moved too much. On the other hand, a performer who stands stock-still and stoic can convey a kind of indifference. Have you ever seen an orchestra, where everyone seems laid-back? Having economized all their motions, they look a little like they're "mailing it in."

And yet, one of the finest performances I've ever seen was cellist Janos Starker playing the Franck Sonata. He didn't need to "emote" with movement because the music conveyed everything it needed to convey.

So where do you stand on this subject? And please, do not use this space to complain about the performing habits of specific musicians. You can describe something you found annoying, but please, no names unless you are doling out praise.

 


From Michael Divino
Posted on January 8, 2010 at 7:14 PM

 I voted "it's ok" as long as it is tasteful and sensible.  Hilary Hahn comes to mind.


From Ray Randall
Posted on January 8, 2010 at 7:53 PM

Some players move around and wiggle so much you'd think they were sitting on a cactus plant or forgot to stop at the rest room before going on stage.Too much is very distracting. What would be the opposite, Heifetz?


From Laurie Niles
Posted on January 8, 2010 at 8:16 PM

No names!


From Anne Horvath
Posted on January 8, 2010 at 9:41 PM

Starker is magnificent.  He exudes music, and his motions are perfect for his art.   James Ehnes is another that moves from within, and is most dignified on stage.

As far as "mailing it in" and motion, I've heard live some big career soloists that have the choreography down, with all the cliched physical gestures (and facial expressions) but the music was dead. 


From Bart Meijer
Posted on January 8, 2010 at 9:49 PM

I voted "it's distracting", but one can always shut one's eyes! Some players may have very little control over their movements. I remember one fine violinist who could not keep still in his chair when he played. When he taught, he emphasized correct sitting, and he often said things like: "don't take me as an example. I cannot help myself."


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on January 8, 2010 at 9:41 PM

No names but I favor an approch as the elder Russian violinists (ok this is almost giving names lol)  And no, when you look up close, they didn't look like wooden soldiers!

At this era, they didn't need to move/dance to charm people, nor that they needed to dress as top modals with things that are nice for sure but can be disturbing for the performer and take off the focus on the performance for the listinners (too high heels, hair falling in the face/eyes while playing cause it's sexy, heavy jewelery and dancing because it's "in")   I am for fashion and movement if the player feels like it but I feel that abusing of it can lead to an artificial negative consequence of considering more the "show"  and the "look"  rather than the music itself...  For me music is not a circus nor a "parade" and too much moving fall in this category for me...  

If the artists you go see are those you have their recording at home, perfect but if you go see X charming artist and run to your old masters or other violinists recordings when you are at home, ask yourself the question if you go for the "show" or for the music...

Interesting topic,

Anne-Marie

 


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on January 8, 2010 at 10:20 PM

Not to mentionned that moving can happen when someone is forcing and contracted...  Result, a sometimes forced tone and loss of energy/power in the playing. Saving energy is one of the masters trick after all...  But moving or not, what only counts is the music that comes out ; )

Anne-Marie


From Margaret Lee
Posted on January 8, 2010 at 10:37 PM

I was in my 1st prime of violin many, many years ago, in one of 2 master classes I have ever been in, and the teacher was -- no name-- but I'd have to say , the most famous violin-associated person I've ever been in contact with. This teacher had me play my piece, and then the only thing the teacher had me do was stand against the wall with my violin scroll fixed so that I would not move.  I guess given the limited time  in the master class, that was the "easiest" thing to tackle. I'm not a professional and I don't perform, and I don't think movement is a big deal for myself or for others.


From Michael Divino
Posted on January 8, 2010 at 11:19 PM

 Anne-Marie, I think it is fine for a performer to move IF they have the musical chops to back it up.  I guess the most important thing is what your hear and then what you see.  If they're moving just to move, that's when it is distracting.


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on January 8, 2010 at 11:24 PM

I agree Michael (like for the one you mentioned)!  But if young students with no experience or any other normal player  tries to imitate the few stars who can do the two... it's too dangerous!!!

Anne-Marie


From Michael Divino
Posted on January 9, 2010 at 1:22 AM

 This is true.  You can tell when someone is trying way too hard.


From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on January 9, 2010 at 2:21 AM

 I think it's helpful for the leader of a section or chamber group such as a string quartet to move.  There is a lot of communication that goes on that helps the group play together better. 


From Michael Divino
Posted on January 9, 2010 at 2:44 AM

 Karen is absolutely right.  What were to happen if the conductor didn't give clear downbeats??? It's up to section leaders to cue visually.  

 

Another idea I just thought of was moving with the phrase-- like with an ascending line, you move or sway or stand on tippy toes (safely of course.  Hilary Hahn is my favorite example of moving only in the legs/feet.  Just watch her play the Sibelius concerto!)


From Christopher Ciampoli
Posted on January 9, 2010 at 4:45 AM

It doesn't annoy me as an audience member, but I'm not philosophically totally ok with it, so I abstained my vote. My view is that it's in many cases (not all) I've seen, extra tension. A substitution and overcompensation for actual expression. You don't need to raise your eyebrows and stand on your toes to play an echo in Mozart. You need to use less bow and lift the pressure. Players recognize what has to be done musically, and what they do is OVER-compensate by lifting other body parts, in this example. I could fit this in to the theories presented in The Inner Game of Tennis. Your Self 1 is worried "I have to make sure I'm quiet and make a clear change character for the echo", doesn't trust Self 2, therefore takes command, and works too hard, recruits too much effort than what is needed, and recruits effort in the wrong places. Videos of Heifetz, Horowitz, Rubinstein, Oistrakh, this is the minimum level of tension we should strive to emulate, IMHO.


From Bruce Berg
Posted on January 9, 2010 at 5:27 AM

Having performed professionally in a string quartet, as concertmaster of orchestras, in various other chamber music situations, even as soloist with some orchestras movement is necessary in playing. The best type of motion is what will convey to your fellow musicians your musical intent and therefore help the musical result. This is called "leading."

The type of motion that is annoying is moving in order to interpret the emotion of the music for the audience. We best project our music through sound, not motion. Let's leave it to the dancers to give beauty through motion.


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on January 9, 2010 at 8:26 AM

I have a new adult beginner who sways from side to side in perfect synchrony with the rhythm of whatever she's playing.  I asked her whether she was are of this, and she said that she was.  She likes to do it because she sees many rock musicians do this when they play.  She asked me whether it's OK to do this, and I told her that it's OK as long as she focuses on the music and puts the rhythm into her playing.


From Marianne Hansen
Posted on January 9, 2010 at 2:30 PM

I voted not OK - but I mean if the motions are very large it is distracting.  I saw a group of incredibly gifted young players and more than one of them swayed (I would say thrashed) so much in their seat that they would have had to take a step if they had been standing to keep their balance under where their head got to be.  That is not good writing....

I am OK with the amount of movement, standing or sitting, that involves or would involve shifting from foot to foot.  If the movement is so great that the player would have to take a step, I would rather not see it in a chamber music performace or a classical concert.  I'm good with it, though, if a fiddler wants to actually dance.


From Christopher Ciampoli
Posted on January 10, 2010 at 12:46 AM

Dr. Berg, I concur with your sentiments precisely.


From Mabel MacMillan
Posted on January 10, 2010 at 4:16 AM

I think it depends on the piece, and on the extent to which the performer moves. Personally, it doesn't bother me when it is a solo violinist, but in a chamber or orchestral context  I find it distracting if there is too much unnecessary movement. In my opinion the musicians in an ensemble should be moving (or not...) in a uniform fashion, in the same way that their playing in an ensemble should have a unified sound.


From Carrie Buddington
Posted on January 10, 2010 at 10:01 AM

Bruce Berg expressed my feelings perfectly. Some movement is necessary for leading. Some movement occurs naturally . But it becomes obvious when it is too much and is done for effect beyond the expression of the music. I wonder if it becomes too much when the player is more concerned with the effect he/she is producing on the audience rather than the actual music???


From Rick Savadow
Posted on January 10, 2010 at 3:50 PM

Even though I don't mind movement--it conveys emotion & involvement--what comes to mind is watching David Oistrakh, who stood like a stone, but oh, what sound & emotion came out of his instrument. I can appreciate what Bruce Berg is saying, I feel it is obvious when I musician needs the movement to release the feeling in his or her playing, and some where it looks like its for show. That is usually obvious.


From Matthew Kavanaugh
Posted on January 10, 2010 at 4:55 PM

Ok. No names. That being said, I concur with the first post. The performer mentioned uses balance and shifts in center of gravity to emphasis phrasing {sonically, not simply visually}. Movement also allows for repositioning both of the torso and the instrument, again for purposes of playing. Further, movement provides for interaction with the conductor and other musicians, which is quite important. And lastly, it's fun! {in moderation} We should recall that having a wonderful time is the reason we create, share and listen to music.


From Brian Allen
Posted on January 10, 2010 at 9:37 PM

I think that sometimes we forget that as musicians, we are first and formost entertainers. I know that sometimes we get bogged down in the idea that the music speaks for itself and as artists we should be above such things as entertainment, but that is how we must keep the dwindling masses involved.  I contend that those musicians who only think of the music and not their audience are the ones who are starving to death. Art and music has to speak to its listeners or there would be no art and no music. So, if appropriate movement gets the audience more involved in the music that is being played, then that is a good thing.

Brian's dad, Don


From Vartkes Ehramdjian
Posted on January 11, 2010 at 12:24 AM

It really does not matter if a violinist moves or not, as long as he or she is not "STONATTO"

I do not enjoy a "stone face" either , but on the other hand I don't like "exagerated grimaces" to falsley impress.

At the end of the concert no one will remember the moves, but always remember the sound of the "violin"

Vartkes


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on January 11, 2010 at 1:11 AM

"At the end of the concert no one will remember the moves, but always remember the sound of the "violin"

 

objection: one asian female violinist that I can't name but that is often mentionned here by guys for something(s) else than her playing so your statement is "almost" always true ; )

Anne-Marie

 


From Luis Dias
Posted on January 11, 2010 at 11:50 AM

If movement distracts me, I close my eyes, and just listen. So I've abstained too.

A certain celebrity violinist played the Brahms violin concerto beautifully, but managed to leap-frog from one end of the stage to the other in the bargain. I am NOT exaggerating. Even after closing my eyes, the stomping was too distracting!

 


From Peter Kent
Posted on January 11, 2010 at 5:55 PM

While most discussion has centered on soloists, when you think of the motion in the whole Berlin Phil vs the NYPO, there is a vast difference....to place the principal viola of the NYPO (no names) in the back of her section would make for a very unappealing scene whereas her extreme motions in the Berlin would be almost unnoticed.

Many of the European groups do exhibit excessive motion however it seems a universal albeit unspoken mode of conduct. Having spoken with at least 3 of the Vienna Phil CM's, they claim there is no mention for or against "choreography" in playing...not certain whether is is condoned in any of our orchestras.....can't imagine Szell (no first name !) suggesting or allowing more motion from the woodwinds...Variety is the spice of eurhythmics !


From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on January 11, 2010 at 10:19 PM

I have no huge issues with it theoreticaly, but Christopher hit it on the head when he mentioned that movement can indeed be a sign of tension.  It can also be a sign of freedom.  It depends on where it's coming from.  I have students who are stiff as boards and I have them move on purpose to teach their muscles freedom and fluidity.  I have others, one in particluar comes to mind, and I myself was the same way well into college, who moves "instead of" playing.  It's as if she's trying to play the violin with her whole body, which has two related problems-1) her bow arm motion is tied to her body motion, which makes for much less actual bow movement and sound; and 2) she is feeling the music so much in her body that she doesn't realize how little sound she's making--it's all there in her head but it's not making it into her instrument!  This past week I made her play her piece with her eyes closed, and listen to her tone.  then I had had her play it standing still, feel the independent movement of her arm, and listen to the difference in her tone.  It was unbelieveable, worlds richer than before, and she finally "got it" (which was exciting!!)  anyway...after all that--Yes, I am pro-freedom of movement but anti-movement for movement's sake.


From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on January 11, 2010 at 10:19 PM

I have no huge issues with it theoreticaly, but Christopher hit it on the head when he mentioned that movement can indeed be a sign of tension.  It can also be a sign of freedom.  It depends on where it's coming from.  I have students who are stiff as boards and I have them move on purpose to teach their muscles freedom and fluidity.  I have others, one in particluar comes to mind, and I myself was the same way well into college, who moves "instead of" playing.  It's as if she's trying to play the violin with her whole body, which has two related problems-1) her bow arm motion is tied to her body motion, which makes for much less actual bow movement and sound; and 2) she is feeling the music so much in her body that she doesn't realize how little sound she's making--it's all there in her head but it's not making it into her instrument!  This past week I made her play her piece with her eyes closed, and listen to her tone.  then I had had her play it standing still, feel the independent movement of her arm, and listen to the difference in her tone.  It was unbelieveable, worlds richer than before, and she finally "got it" (which was exciting!!)  anyway...after all that--Yes, I am pro-freedom of movement but anti-movement for movement's sake.


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on January 12, 2010 at 6:27 AM

Greetings,

Rick,  w eshare the same sentimets on this issue but I would like to regurgitate a little on your comment about Oistrakh standing like a stone.    In my opinion Oistrakh moved a great deal in a very specific way which was the result of his absolutely awesome innate understanding of how power is geenrated (I have no idea if he ever articulated his views on this although frankly I doubt it). To wit,  the secret behind Oistrakhs power was basically the spiral rotation of his body up and down from from the feet from left to right,  back and forth,  vice versa etc.   In some magical  way he unsderstood the nature of energy transmission from both the ground and the sky and his movement were exactly in tune with it. That is why it is virtually invisible but if one took his clothes off and took measurmeents I think one might be quite surprised by the large extent he moved.  Since it was purely in the service of the music and perhaps he was the closest of all violinsts to the absolute minimum of effort it is not somehting one pays  conscious attention to.  

He was simply like the ocean going in and out or the sun setting.   One lies back and enjoys them in all their majesty.

Cheers,

Buri


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on January 12, 2010 at 8:22 PM

Buri, what doesn't lie too on Oistrakh is his face... As Menuhin said it is possible to see the wonderful neck fredom he had since he didn't learn to hold the violin tight between the chin and shoulder + facial expression that shows that he isn't a "stone" at all!

Anne-Marie


From arian alasvandian
Posted on January 12, 2010 at 9:13 PM

I think this is ok.for the best musicalite we want to everything that makes us camfortable.some players need to this movements and some players don't need it.


From Laurie Trlak
Posted on January 12, 2010 at 10:15 PM

It just depends. As with anything, it can be overdone (I'm thinking of Liberace on the piano here). Some movement seems almost necessary, and perhaps for some performers it is more necessary than for others. I think standing stock-still like a block of wood would detract from the performance, but that's just an opinion, for what it's worth. But I think some of the jumping around I see with younger, modern performers today is a bit much, once again just an opinion.


From Efrem Violin
Posted on January 13, 2010 at 10:06 PM

Re: Movement while performing a musical instrument.  Personally, and it is me, as I've been around this "atmosphere" almost a century, I overlook it, even when it IS distracting.  I am (mostly WAS) a violinist, and I've been in the company of the best.  Many move a tremendous amount, almost walking around the stage.  The stoic musicician, (violinist or any other, actually) is almost as distracting as the mover and shaker.  I have seen cellists almost swoon, while performing.  Ignoring the movement, I find the expressions and distorsions of face and mouth equally distracting, as though to say "This is VERY difficult".  However, once this habit, and it IS a habit, is established, it is just about impossible to control.  An artist (violinist or other instrumentalist) having learned the particular manner of playing, will play his/her way, no matter.  In the end, I accept it all, with preferences.  I want the MUSIC above all.

ALL of this really is trying to understand personalities, as I think that is the controlling ingredient.  The personality and psychology of the performer is at play, here.

I would like to hear a judge express an opinion.

In conclusion, how about conductors, and can we mention names?


From Efrem Violin
Posted on January 14, 2010 at 1:42 AM

AGAIN, re: moving around, while playing, and continuing the distractions.  How about the attire of the performer?  The symphony and chamber requirements are a little more strict, however, the "ladies" sometimes get away with murder!!   I will tell you, NOW, there is just a little too much freedom, today, as to sleeves and necklines, in the orchestra.  I truly prefer just a little more modesty among the more delicate members of the ensemble.  Thank you, all.

One final time, it's the music that is uppermost of import.  We'll all bend a bit for the sake of harmony and beauty.

Thank you for allowing ME to express myself.  I hope there has been a little illumination as a result of this little exchange.  If it makes better music, AND, adds to the pleasure of production and enjoyment for the listener, then, it has served a good purpose.

Concluding, I again, ask for a discussion re: conductors.  I have a few stories I could tell, if one were interested (with or without names).


From Richard Watson
Posted on January 14, 2010 at 8:42 PM

 An interesting thread.  Leads are essential to really tight ensemble playing. How else can several players manage to begin and end a given note in the same microsecond. In an orchestra I have often found it easier to follow the concertmaster or section leader than many conductors.  Some movement is absolutely necessary.

Both Heifetz and Oistrakh have been have been criticized by some for their "cold" demeanor.  To these critics I can only plead: Open your ears. 

A famous cellist from a recent generation used to fling her hair from side to side, which had the unfortunate effect of altering the bow's contact with the string, creating surface noise. Soulfulness or faulty technique? Does the visual have more weight than the aural in musical performance? Food for thought.

 

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