March 9, 2009 at 11:18 PM
I had always thought (well, not always), that the point of playing the violin was to take the composiers ideas, feelings, thoughts, etc. and your own ideas and feeligs, and transform those emotions into sound.
I still wouldn't say that thats incorrect, but I just had the opportunity to play for a teacher who absolutely transformed the way I think about music. He asked me "what is your image of this piece" and, having been asked that same question shortly before, I gave a little image I like to picture for the piece. He then asked "and who's there" to which I had to answer, "who's there?..uh, nobody?"
Which, I suppose is exactly the problem. Prior to every performance, in order to control my stage fright, I take a few seconds to completely wipe the audience from my mind. A few deep breaths, play the music in my head and they're gone and so, whatever ideas I had, whatever emotions that the music is envoking in me, I keep to myself. The phrasing, etc. etc. that I do is just enough that I'm thoroughly enjoying myself, but never reaches out beyond myself. In the most passionate phrases, I never cry out.
Suddenly I realize that making emotion into sound isn't the only point of music. Of course, for those who enjoy making music for our own enjoyment (hopefully all of us), this is a very important goal, but the real purpose isn't to take my emotions and transform them into sound. It's to take the emotions that the composition makes me feel, and to envoke those same feelings in the audience.
Of course there were other things he told me ("too heavy! Is that your idea of Dolce?" and "why is this muscle so stiff? *swat swat*") but that was the most monumental.
So....I guess now it's back to square one figuring out how to accomplish that .......
I remember a similar 'breakthrough' in how I play or, at least, try to play. It wasn't my teacher but a visiting youth conductor who'd come to take our school orchestra practice because the director of music was away. We were practicing Nimrod from the Enigma Variations (Elgar - obviously), I was the head of the orchestra and he said, "You have to GROW the sound through the note! Not just get louder, but bigger and more present!"
I realise now that it's quite an obvious thing to do and I knew exactly what he meant when he said it, but I'd never really done it before except by accident... It was a break through moment for me, especially playing slower more emotionally charged pieces and I always look to do that now.
You present a good point here. I have always made it a practice to teach the student of the historical events that were occuring during the periods in which the compositions were written. This helps them to understand the music better. One would be suprised at the lack of historical knowledge that most young persons exhibit given the opportunity to ask them. The questions that history presents can be touchy at certain points (ethnic, religious or political points) and are often avoided by most teachers. The answers I have gotten were profoundly ignorant, and made me aware of the public school systems lack of proper monitoring of the progress of their students.
As for the ability to interpret music in general, it usually has something to do with their lack of personal and emotional experiences at that age. The well educated student will have a better understanding of the music, historically, but (may usually) lack the life experiences that are required to perform in an artistically convincing manner. This could also account for their inability to perform in a "passionate" manner that is convincing to the audience. On the far end, a certain level of spirituality is also required.
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