I was digging through an old theory book the other day and found stashed away in the pages an article by Manfred Clamer called "The Son File Bowing Principle." My teacher at the time had given it to all of her students at a master class. I read through it back then and understood very little. I just read through it again and found so many incredible pearls of wisdom. Time heals most stupidity.
So, I'm wondering your thoughts on a couple of passages I will quote:
Elias Malkin, a student of Leopold Auer and Heifetz' second teacher, once told a friend of mine that Heifetz instinctively developed his own unique and original playing position. While conventional wisdom at the time dictated strict, orthodox playing positions, Malkin learned from Auer and from his own observations that leaving Heifetz "alone" and just guiding the child in what he could not do instinctively proved to be not only more productive but in fact the only way to teach him. In other words, Malkin did not interfere, but built up the child within his own unique physical parameters and idiosyncrasies (high right arm, high right wrist, left thumb high up over the violin neck) . . .
You have heard violinists play with tremendous dexterity, left-hand acrobatics and impressive musicianship and yet your ear, your musical inside, was not satisfied. In most cases these people, without the benefit of the son file, press, choke and distort the sound. The result is that even though their left hand hits the notes dead centre and in tune, the under- and overtones are left out. The sound becomes flat and it sounds out of tune. As we are dealing with resourceful and intelligent people, they usually purchase very sensitive instruments and bows so that the distortion of sound becomes less apparent under the ear. The audience hears it just the same, flat out of tune. The unconscious of the player also remains dissatisfied. Then, as they all want to compete with Heifetz, Perlman and Oistrakh on recordings and their teachers keep on insisting that pressing the devil out of an instrument is the answer, they play fortissimo most of the time. Now the ear gets into shock and hears less and less and the player gets used to this rape of the violin.
Oh, how it hurts! I'm surprised my teacher didn't underline that last bit for me in highlight marker when she gave me the article, as that pretty much describes the sort of player I was back then. I hope I've improved a bit since then.
I think this article appeared in The Strad back in the early 90's, if anyone wants to search it out and read the entire article. Just wanted to share something I felt was valuable and worth thinking about.
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