Question on authenticity in interpretation

June 28, 2016 at 03:31 PM · Hi all,

I remember one of my teachers used to tell me that you can't just count on your feelings that you may or might not have on the day of your performance so you have to have an in-built tehnique that would also include the musical ideas,feelings and even if lets say,you can't be focused at the time,your interpretation will continue to seem authentic,correlated to your state of emotions.

I love Stanislawski because in his method,I found a solution(or at least,an exercise)for mind focus and fighting stage fright. I wonder why his method isn't used by musicians as well...or at least talked about more often.

In the same time,I was analyzing actors performing in the theatre for 2 months,the same play and sometimes 2 times a day and their performance seemed incredibly intense so I wonder if they have some built tehnique as well. Although ,if I understand Stanislawski's method well enough,they are supposed to reach that level of identification with the character or the emotion,each time.I used to believe one would go crazy if they'd do that but then,which would be the purpose of art if we don't do it?

So my question would be,I think- would you believe that such an approach on music and interpretation could be possible for us,musicians,as well? I sometimes get the feeling that we discuss so much the tehnique,bowings,fingerings,phrase,colours,that is -means - that we forget about the essence of music and we hardly talk about it anymore,let alone identification or an atempt of self understanding in correlation to it.

I am aware this debates might seem very vague since talking about the meanings of music is highly subjective but I believe it is very important to have them anyway and even to experiment with new ideas in interpretation and I don't understand why they are almost completely missing from our educational system. It is like keeping the means and losing the meaning...

Thank you! Looking forward to reading your ideas !

Replies (13)

June 28, 2016 at 05:43 PM · I am not sure if this could be learned as a "method" or technique. Perhaps one can learn the building blocks of emotional expression through music (using violin as a tool), but the rest is in the sphere of talent and musician's personality.

One also has to be aware how visual input can be deceiving; some musicians are very expressive with their body language, but when you close your eyes, there is little left to move you.

What I often miss as a listener is the singing quality, phrasing and rhetoric in music expression.

That is why I believe that music education is incomplete without singing, acting and mime lessons.

Violin is a very difficult instrument to learn and its gravitational pull is so strong that many of us fall into the same trap: we focus so much on the instrument and the technicality of playing that we miss the point in music making.

June 28, 2016 at 06:29 PM · What I do is create a scenario ("story") for the music and work out how I want it to sound in different places and what I have to do to make it come out that way. That way, when I perform it, I just ahve to "follow my script" for that interpretation.

Roy Sonne's lesson on Massenet's Meditation is a good example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIj6ogLag0o

I first performed that piece in a church with organ & harp accompaniment when I was 14 (some 67 years ago). Back then I had no concept of these interpretive ideas, I just tried to make it beautiful. Subsequently I have played it for weddings and funerals and "just to make it beautiful," etc., and I do things differently for each interpretive concept.

Roy Sonne has a number of videos on line that can be helpful for developing your "method playing." I think his Accolay Concerto video is particularly accessible. The method is not the same as Stanislawski's method for actors. I believe that for music making with something as technically challenging as a violin you need to work out the technique that creates the "emotion" in the practice room so that you can concentrate on the technique during performance.

June 28, 2016 at 10:03 PM · Imagine playing a lullaby so convincingly that you fall asleep before reaching the end!

June 29, 2016 at 06:24 AM · It can all get "too much in the head."

We need to get on and "tehnique,bowings,fingerings,phrase,colours" are the essence. Along with some other things.

June 29, 2016 at 06:24 AM · SORRY - pressed the wrong key - it should have been D minor ...

June 29, 2016 at 02:31 PM · The results / feelings from a musical performance come out of the combination of the piece, the performer, the audience, and sometimes the event that brings them all together. Change any of them and you get a different result/feeling. Even a single performer changes over time, with mood, and with the occasion or audience. And we haven't even started talking yet about improvisation, which used to be commonplace and expected of violin soloists. Put that all together, and I believe that striving for "constancy" violates the purpose of a musical performance. We listen to music to enjoy the moment - as we are and as the performer is at that moment.

June 29, 2016 at 11:04 PM · I think there's some value in creating a story-line for a piece, but just a sketch. If you start going into a lot of detail you're overdoing it. Remember part of the point of music is to express things that are not easily expressed in words. That's why opera is such a freaking train wreck. LOL

July 1, 2016 at 06:17 AM · "I remember one of my teachers used to tell me that you can't just count on your feelings that you may or might not have on the day of your performance so you have to have an in-built tehnique that would also include the musical ideas,feelings and even if lets say,you can't be focused at the time,your interpretation will continue to seem authentic,correlated to your state of emotions."

Isn't aiming to seem authentic missing the point? Obviously technical means are necessary as without them no amount of insight into the music per se will be sufficient to play the instrument, but conversely no amount of technical ability is a sufficient compensation for authenticity per se. Studying actors for authenticity also seems to be a flawed approach as the best they can do is seeming. Unless you take the view that the existent is simply the totality of its appearances, and therefore no more than its appearances, which would seem to imply that as the appearance is everything, there is ultimately nothing to authenticate. While we're at it then, why don't we consider Maria João Pires' argument that technique doesn't exist? Maria João Pires Technique doesn't exist

July 1, 2016 at 02:36 PM · Hi and thank you for the video!

I don't know what I actually mean by authenticity in art.That is why I keep asking the question over again...probably,I am aiming for a state of truthfullness.I don't believe that actors,at their best,they can only seem...I think inside them,they can become their character. The character changes them just like music changes us as we try to understand it and make it our own,we eventually find it within us. And that,for me,is a state of authenticity. I believe music has spiritual meanings rooted deeply in us and an authentic performance is one where you are discovering them.Those rare moments Rubinstein was talking about in his interview at 90 years old.But I still believe that it is possible to play a work without feeling any connection to the piece and the public might still enjoy it and find a connection themselves which will determine them to listen and discover more music...then,you,as a performer,are missing the point.

July 2, 2016 at 09:16 PM · Well put.

July 3, 2016 at 05:51 PM · But I still believe that it is possible to play a work without feeling any connection to the piece and the public might still enjoy it and find a connection themselves which will determine them to listen and discover more music...then,you,as a performer,are missing the point.

I don't quite get what you means here. If the listener has enjoyed the music and had a connection, leading to discovery of new music, how has the performer missed the point? I can't make sense of this contradictory writing.

July 3, 2016 at 07:29 PM · I remember listening for the first time to an interpretation of the Brahms violin concerto many many years ago and although I didn't like at all the interpretation(I wouldn't re-listen to it,for sure) ,Brahms music touched me so deeply that I couldn't wait to find it and re-listen to it. The music touched me,regardless of the interpretation.

There are different points,I guess.Surely he got one right.He passed on the music as best as he could and some people gained something out of it,which is good. I was thinking about something else. It depends which your point is.

July 4, 2016 at 01:08 AM · ".I don't believe that actors,at their best,they can only seem...I think inside them,they can become their character"

I think it's important to make the distinction and stay grounded, even and especially when aiming towards abstruse concepts. The actor doesn't really become the character. If I broke a wrist falling off a bike, an actor who plays a doctor in TV, regardless of how well, would not be good enough. The actor does not become that character.

Authenticity means fidelity to the truth, and while it may not be possible to be 100% away from the truth, so the distinctions may become fuzzy and hard to hold, aiming for truth doesn't permit divergence.

As a learning player, authenticity for me means playing in tune and doing the exercises, studies, patient practices, and following my teacher working towards betterment, and while this may sound dull and obvious compared to becoming Heifetz or whatever else I might imagine, it is not only necessary but also most rewarding.

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