November 2008


November 25, 2008 21:35

Two things have occupied my thoughts for the last while.

These are both problematic. The first because the information is so dense and has to be explicated in order to really learn a piece well. The explication is very time consuming, requires enormous scholarship, erudition and acuity. The process to do it quickly for successive pieces is so vital to building a repertory, learning how to sight read effectively  and also to turn it into music. 

The second is because there is so much that depends on knowledge that is not conveyed in the music. Performance practices, cultural context etc may not be at all contained in the notation. An audible shift here? Why? At the frog here? At the tip there? Why? These bow divisions for this phrase? Why? How do I remember everything? It is hard enough taking out one's hicks and tics that make something grotesque or ugly and then we have to add in subtleties and nuances that are not cliched to make something beautiful.

It is becoming clearer that one needs to turn more of notation into words and symbols  and also to add words and symbols for things that are only implicit in the music. These words may be added to the page but for sure they have to be added to one's mental concept of the music and its technical execution. We already add bowings and fingers. We may even add words and symbols. Perhaps we need a language for notating bow divisions and possibly a better notation for indicating what is happening in the entire left hand. When does a finger move? Where does it move to? I have written other blogs on notating finger patterns.

In the end though I don't think one should have an end goal of having a million notations on a score. But we do need a million notations in our heads. We need to learn how to analyze more quickly so that it isn't just about storage. Some time ago I wrote a blog about sudoku. I don't see any link between sudoku and violin playing but if you look at the sequence 79146 how long does it take you to say that 2358 are missing? This is a basic skill in sudoku. So it is with looking at a score. One must be able to translate the notation into instructions for the hands and fingers and arms and etc. to execute.

The more explicit we can make the instructions, the better and sooner we can prepare the motion, the more instructions we have in the queue the better (to a point obviously).

This takes words. More words and more words until words become a part of you.


4 replies | Archive link

A Conservative Perspective: Obama supporters are scratching their heads

November 21, 2008 06:29

Hope and Change. But this is a link to a pro-Obama website that is a bit anguished with how things are going. Of course all that President-elect Obama has authority to do right now is start picking his administration but that is what is so disturbing to many of his supporters. 

Campaigning one way and acting another is okay. As someone said: TWTTIN, that was then this is now.

2 replies | Archive link

Shifting and finger patterns

November 17, 2008 07:58

My good friend and mentor Edward Lawrence has three rules for shifting that have had a powerful impact on me.

1. All shifts are slow

2. Shift on a finger on a string

3. Shift to a position not to a finger

Rule three has been a particular recent focus of my practice. What this means is that when shifting we shift the whole hand from one finger pattern to a new finger pattern in a different position. We can't just shift a finger to another finger. 

So what happens to the fingers? Is there a guiding finger or do all the fingers move during the shift?

Well there is a guiding finger that controls the shift. It is usually the the last finger before the shift but it can in some cases dictated by the music and expression be the finger that will end the shift. The old-timers sometimes started the shift with the last finger down and ended it with the next finger down. This can be a rather voluptuous sound.

But what about the other fingers?

There are many circumstances but primarily the new pattern should be formed at the earliest possible opportunity -- at the latest on beginning of the note that starts the shift but earlier if possible. Fingers that are not on the string should be formed into a pattern in the air.

This requires a lot of thinking and planning. We can almost always do things a lot sooner than we think. We can cover notes on adjacent strings sooner than we think. We can prepare for shifts sooner than we think. 

So how to get to this? This is a lot to think about. I suggest that three questions every violinist should start with and ask every moment of their practice is "where is my first finger?" and "why is it there?" and "would it be better if it were somewhere else?" 

I think that these questions will help one better follow rule three of shifting: "shift to a position not to a finger".

16 replies | Archive link

Updated: A Conservative Perspective: Looking for something to blame

November 15, 2008 08:22

 Here is an interesting editorial on some scapegoating that isn't panning out.

Here is another link from the Washington Post for those who were expecting change.


Another update on hope and change.

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My conservative perspective: A liberal notes her unease

November 12, 2008 13:09

Joan Didion a noted writer and intellectual and essentially an Obama supporter notes her unease. 

 I forgot, Hope and Change

2 replies | Archive link

Setting Expectations

November 11, 2008 08:58

Here is an interesting link from a pro-Obama writer. After you get through the anti-Bush-Cheney stuff see what he says what we ought to be expecting going forward .

Here is another interesting discussion of what changes not to expect. Perhaps there is some Hope.


One more set of expectations related by Thomas Sowell who discusses the anticipation of the return of  intellectuals

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Politics and Violin Playing: A Conservative Perspective

November 10, 2008 07:24

This is a blog so I have no intention of being comprehensive. I think that the economy and politics are un-ignorable parts of our lives. We'll all be asking one or more of the following questions. Teachers: will family incomes will allow families to afford private lessons for their children. Professionals: will  audiences and donors will allow their performing organization to survive and thrive. Is my pensions safe.

Others will wonder if health care for their families will be available and whether it will be quality health care. Owners of fine instruments will be wondering about the appreciation of their instruments and the how taxes will affect their income from the sale of an instrument. And on it goes.

My intention isn't to post a lot of my own thoughts on economic and political subjects that affect us as musicians or other interested parties. Rather I just want to post some pertinent links from time to time that represent points of view that may not otherwise be seen.

Here is a first. A year ago the party that controlled congress demanded pay as you go. They were abhorring deficits and demanded tax increases to cover deficits. Here is where they are today.

4 replies | Archive link

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