May 28, 2010 10:19
People talk a lot about how "stuffy" classical music concerts are, how we need to lighten up, stop fussing over good manners, let people wear jeans to concerts, stop worrying over this and that.
But the truth is that it can be very difficult to enjoy a classical concert, in the absence of a few rules. The music has very carefully calibrated dynamics, and that requires a backdrop of silence. A live concert involves movement on stage, and that requires a backdrop of relative stillness. A live concert requires a great deal of preparation and a nice venue; and for an artist to bring this to an audience, the audience needs to show respect in their manner and dress.
This week, Violinist.com member Brian Hong wrote a blog about his frustration with the audience at a performance by the Takács String Quartet. Brian is a teenager. Where do we get the idea that "younger people" would like classical music better if only it were more casual? Is it possible that the opposite is true? That a real event would inspire more real devotion?
A few weeks ago I attended the spring concert for the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, at a beauitful, very large church in Pasadena. Hundreds of children, ages eight and up, made stunningly gorgeous music. But the audience impressed me as much as the chorus did: complete silence. Imagine, a choir singing a cappella, pianissimo, like a whisper. It raises the hair on your neck, it's so beautiful. Somehow this very large audience, half of them children, created the right environment for this music to come alive.
I would argue that even pops concert audiences should afford their artists a measure of silence, and this blog made me laugh out loud. Should a concert require the kind of amplification that gives people permanent hearing damage? Aren't concerts for listening? Sure dance, hum, even sing a little but....'Whooooooooo!" If you just want to scream and hear your own voice, why are you going to a concert?
But I digress. Here is the question I pose to you: What is the most annoying kind of concert disturbance, in your estimation, at a classical concert?
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May 14, 2010 22:11
It's really no wonder that Susie can't play this piece -- she hasn't practiced all week!
And whose fault is that? Is it Susie's fault? Is it Susie's parents fault? Or is it her teacher's fault?
Well, let's not point fingers. But I'd like to explore the idea of who should provide the motivation for practice. When I first started teaching (around 20 years ago), I thought that "motivation to practice" simply wasn't my department. My job was teaching the lessons. If you are going to ask me for lessons, I'm assuming you know that your job is to practice. If you don't practice, well duh, you won't learn.
The problem is that, though many people want to learn to play an instrument, a lot of them don't see the point in practicing. They see playing music sort of like they see reading books: generally you read a book once, unless it's a really good book. They fail to see that playing music is more like doing a cartwheel on a balance beam: not only do you have to perfect each skill involved, you have to practice the movements again and again. And once you stop practicing, you fall off the balance beam.
What role does a student's teacher play in practice? I came to the conclusion that, as a teacher, I must be a tireless practice advocate. Did you practice? Every day? What happened Thursday? Can you make sure it doesn't happen this Thursday? Also, I'm a practice prescription writer: practice this passage, 10 times a day, etc. Of course, I don't have to do this for every student, but when it's needed, I will turn up the heat about practicing.
What do you think? Is it your teacher's business, how much you practice? Teachers, is it your business, how much your students practice?
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May 8, 2010 20:39
It's not unusual for us violinists to get a crick in our necks, but I was pretty alarmed when the LA Times reported that the brilliant new LA Phil conductor Gustavo Dudamel "heard a loud pop and lost sensation on one side" when he "lunged energetically" conducting the last movement of the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the LA Phil and cellist Alisa Weilerstein Thursday night.
Fortunately, he was back the next day, and in good form.
Dudamel is a very energetic, physical conductor. The first time I saw him conduct, I was madly in love with everything -- his spectacular ability to communicate, the music that resulted, the mad curls...
But I confess that I also leaned over to Robert and said, "I'm worried about all that tension."
Don't think I'm insulting this gifted conductor; I'm not. I'm just a violin teacher, and when I see tension, I get worried and start making prescriptions: Change your technique. Do yoga. Time for Alexander...
It is so easy to injure oneself as a violinist, as a conductor, as a musician. You can get by with a lot of tension in your playing when you are young, but once you hit about 30, you get efficient or you get injured. And in the final analysis, you don't need to lose any of your powers to communicate, to express, to make music, in order to zone in on those trigger points and unclench those muscles that never needed to be clenched in the first place.
Have I ever had to re-work my own technique to prevent injury? Many times, starting with my first day of college. Mostly it's my shoulders -- they brace for the weight of the world instead of for the weight of a fiddle (maybe one pound?). Also, I went through a pretty long period of neck-pain analysis, therapy and prevention when I was playing a regular orchestra gig in my 20s.
Have you ever had to re-work your technique to prevent injury on the violin, other instrument, or conducting? Let us know in the poll and then tell us your story.
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