thais meditation,,, tell me more :)

February 25, 2008 at 05:15 AM · is there a right pace/speed for this piece? what is the sentiment/emotion involved, i know it is from an opera, bad girl, love,,,dadada?

when you play it or listen to it, what comes up to your mind?

for those of you who would like to comment or suggest ways to improve with her playing, i am be grateful to hear it (better than coming from me:)...such as specifics on better phrasing, better dynamics, etc.

Replies (29)

February 25, 2008 at 05:35 AM · It's from an far as I know, Thais was a rather immoral lady somewhere in the Orient who eventually renounces her dissolute life and turns to a spiritual quest, or something. The Meditation is her aria from her epiphany moment.

I might be utterly wrong on this however, just heard it from someone somewhere once...

February 25, 2008 at 05:41 AM · probably read it on a prune can...

February 25, 2008 at 05:58 AM · There is an old thread about it. You may get the whole story in the Wikipedia.

February 25, 2008 at 06:04 AM · Just watched a bit. Good vibrato, but sometimes the intonation is off. The bowing sounds a bit tense, I would expect more lightness here. About the speed, I would reduce a few beats. In the overall, sounds good for her age.

February 25, 2008 at 06:28 AM · Greetings,

really enjoyed that although lurking over a tiny screen with the sound almost on zero. I was very impressed by so much.

I especially liked her mature ability to utilize sp effectively.

A small tehcnicla point I thought was the way she palys harmonics. They soudn okay but for me I prefer a slightly faster bow speed and the finegr lifted so that the speed of the bow holds the resonance.n This also facilitates technique in faster passages where the high note carries on ringing while the hand is actually going elsewhere.

Another possibility might be to practic eetting the same range of dynamics and energy without vibrato.: I get a little sense that that remarkably strong and elegant left hand is working at trying to create the volume instea dof enhancing what should be done by the bow.

It might be interesitng to see what happens if she holds the violin guitar fashion and keeps one finger (or a few down) and imagines the piece in her head. At the same time allow the finger to vibrate while staying in the same place, varying the speed and width according to the feeling of the melody.



February 25, 2008 at 01:33 PM · thank you people for your helpful input! here is a reward for buri for his as-usual keen observation and provocative suggestion:

ps, just tried the faster bow on the harmonics,,,neat, with result as you suggested. also played once without vibrato,,,haha, quite revealing as well. she said it is like food channel cooking without butter:)

February 26, 2008 at 05:38 PM · buri! questions for you!

first, it has been commented on that her treatment of the piece is too heavy handed. your opinion, please.

second, with your students who use fraction violins with iffy sound quality comparable to our ebay special, with a piece like this, do you coach the students to play "differently" with a piano versus with a full orchestra in terms of the tradeoff between prettier, sweeter, softer tone versus heavier treatment with better projection? (knowing you, i bet you are going to say why not soft sweet tone with great projection, so don't:)


February 26, 2008 at 10:52 PM · Greetings,

>first, it has been commented on that her treatment of the piece is too heavy handed. your opinion, please.

A little.;) But she`s enjoying herself. Its a question of how you communicate so I can`t do more than generalize. Obviously your child is highly inteligent and articluate so how do you put across what I think are the two basic cocnepts of string sound:

1) Proportion- music music has one fundamental climax (the Chacconne is a major exception) and evry other phrase has to be inproportion to that in terms of intensity emotion etc.

2) What color are you playing?

One interesitng exercise is to ask her (sorry-please tell me her name;() to draw the music with her finger on the walls of the room. In her minds eye she is creating a map of the piec ehwich is also a beautiful painting. After she has finished the piece then she must play the piec ethough while following and responding to the map with her eyes and her body.

Another idea would be to completley reverse the dynamics so the piece isplayed inside out and see what that highlights for her.

Anothe rposisbility is to see if she can make up and represnt stories through the music.

Yet another option is tohave a big book of painting she likes and see if she can experiment with playign the piece as ythough it represneted that painting.

>second, with your students who use fraction violins with iffy sound quality comparable to our ebay special, with a piece like this, do you coach the students to play "differently" with a piano versus with a full orchestra in terms of the tradeoff between prettier, sweeter, softer tone versus heavier treatment with better projection? (knowing you, i bet you are going to say why not soft sweet tone with great projection, so don't:)

I don`t use those criteria so much. I think it is importnat to encourage studnets to use the maximum range of sound at all times kepeing in mind the facotrs of ease, good sound and intonation. It is certainly worth discusisng with a child the context in which the music is going to be played. A key point to bear in mind is that the violin simply cannot compete with an orchetsra in termns of dynamoics. It is always about -articulation-. One thing with young children especially is not to force them to play too loud or heavy until they are well warmed up and avoid thta kind of language. IN general more sound is cause by more bow length and this ha sot be combined with the cocnept of deep sound as a differnet kind of coloring.

Haven`t had enough coffee yet so will probaly nee dotcarry on with this later and make more snense...



February 27, 2008 at 01:40 PM · wonderful prunes from buri yet again. bloody brilliant. (now i come to see why buri referred to drew's book as for the thinking violinists...)

February 27, 2008 at 02:27 PM · Al, you know I'm a fan. Your daughter is very talented. "Heavy handed" is not the term I would use. I would call attention to her bow changes which often invoke swells in places which do not fit with the musical phrase. This is a bow control issue and is part of overall bow technique. As she gains better facility with her bow, she will have more control over those swells. She's on the right track. I wouldn't worry or specifically work on it as she is right where she should be with her level of technical facility. As she improves, she will gain access to more color in her playing because she will control ALL the dynamics and not be limited by the technical difficulties of the bow. And then she'll be perfect :-) and have a recording contract :D

February 27, 2008 at 02:37 PM · kimberlee, excellent point except the last line :) (don't you dare to edit that,,,that is considered cheating here) who needs to be excellent and a recording contract when we have youtube ?:):):) hahaha

agree wholeheartedly about the swells. if done sparingly and tastefully, it can add flavor, but with her, it is like buckets and buckets of soy sauce on everything in sight. even i get motion sickness once in a while. i ask her often,,,if you don't talk or sing like that, why do you play like that? her response: shrugs:)

obviously the bow "did" it, but you think it is a bowing issue or i hate to say it,,,"mental" issue? ;)

February 27, 2008 at 06:11 PM · A few things I noticed Al: First, I'm very impressed with the maturity of her sound and pacing and her developing vibrato. The tempo felt very natural to me. I would hold the D on the G string at the end (around 1:20) of the first big section of the piece before the "stormy middle section" (that begins on the note C) for its full value and fade to gently elide into the new section. The rhythms at the end of the piece are really triplets (3:56 -16th note triplets ,4:21 and 4:25- eighth note triplets) and it sounded like they were played as even eighths. Check with the teacher about that. Also, though the last note can certainly end as she played it, I see nothing in her ability to play in tune in the high registers that should prevent her from playing the high A , whether as harmonic or vibrated note, that is the traditional ending of the piece, representing for me, the final step towards a chaste life in Thais' spiritual epiphany.

Regarding her ease of motion in the feet, I think it's fine that she keeps her knees bent and has a freedom of motion in her legs/hips in general, but I'm not sure these movements are helping the musical direction and gradation of dynamics in the bow in all situations. For example, to give a more drawn out feeling to a note, like the high A she holds while her sister plays up the arpeggio towards the end of the piece- the next to last cadence)it helps to start the bow at the frog leaning on the left foot/leg and slowly draw the bow to the tip as you shift your weight to the right foot.The hips can be turned to assist with this leftward placement and gradually turn to the right as well. It makes the bow feel longer and allows you to still have some tone left on one long bow as the piano's arpeggio rises unhurriedly to the top. In the stormy middle section, it may be better to not move too much and allow bow speed to take care of the intensity with a faster vibrato in the left hand. I'm a little concerned that the left elbow and arm looks like it has to pull around a lot and could be less so if the when playing on the G string, the violin has a steeper tilt allowing the left hand to meet the neck and fingerboard with an arm position less pushed around to the right. On the E string, I would follow the opposite course, and have the violin table flatter to make the bow angle less tilted and allow for a fuller transfer of arm weight.

An especially beautiful moment in the harmony of the piece occurs at 3:04, with the seventh of the chord in the bass- it's nice to ease into that so that special harmonic moment gets its due- it's part of Thais' transformation, I feel.

Finally, am I observing correctly that there isn't much supination and transfer of weight towards the bending little finger of her bow "hold"- it looks as if it stays straight and the arm and wrist somewhat high at the frog. Some people believe you should also limit the amount of radial and ulnar deviation in the right hand/wrist though there is usually some like there is when you bring a spoon up to your mouth to eat.

By the way, as an aside, it's interesting to me that Massenet cut his teeth, as the saying goes, playing percussion in an opera orchestra before going on to write melodies of such a strongly beautiful lyric nature like the Meditation.

Again, bravo to her, her sister, you, and her teacher for reaching this milestone to be able to play such a great piece of music like this with solid technique and musicality!

February 28, 2008 at 06:08 AM · The swells? No big deal--she plays "swell"! :) Probably a readiness issue (regardless of her age). Imho, she's right where she needs to be. Good training, good parents--lucky girl! When she's ready to get rid of the swells, it'll come. She's got the stuff. Crafting a beautiful musical line is difficult work. It's easy for us to get lazy and allow the bow to lead rather than the music--like a rider allowing the horse to lead rather than riding the horse.

February 28, 2008 at 02:26 PM · kimberlee, i suspect the swell to her, or for that matter to some other kids, may actually sound "good" to their ears. may be they feel they are adding something extra to each individual note to make it colorful/flavorful, when in fact, it distorts/disrupts phrasing in a larger scale. we will see what happens with,,,aging:)---another advantage to be a later beginner. also, my kid is not that open to suggestions to be honest. upong hearing feedback from me, she looks up and says: so what, dad, you don't love me anymore? :):(

ronald, thank you so much for your precious time with that master dissection and dissertation. all the technical issues are spot on. i will comment on couple things that come to mind.

1. it is interesting you talk about body movement that may augment music making, something i have not thought much about (she could care even less because she moves rather unpredictably...did you see that full golf swing somewhere in the mid stormy section?:) the specific example you gave makes a lot of sense. imo, it is an interesting area for study/observation,,,the interplay of physical signals between the player and the spectator and how to effectively convey...

2. her bowing: with the new teacher, she has been asked to change couple things which i think still cause her to fluctuate in nowhere-land. for instance, she has been instructed to grip the bow on the index finger with the PIP joint (the one closer to the knuckle) instead of her older way with the DIP joint (near the nail). in addition, to raise her elbow higher. (when you tell someone to raise the elbow higher without really have them understand what "higher" means, you could be looking at the sky:) now, on this site once in a while, topics like this resurfaces. to be honest, even though i consider myself quite well versed in the physiology aspect, i hesitate injecting interference with a teacher's style, out of respect. my daughter is rather flexible and she can adapt without much of a fight, but it remains to be a concern that what is the right way for her in the long run. i don't know...because she is rather strong from playing golf, i have a feeling that even if in the short term she does something that is not sensible, she may not show symptoms like others who are not as conditioned.

thanks to all again for all the wonderful input. i am confident any students reading this can benefit. like emil once said, it is not that hard to get to around 70%, but it really takes something else/extra to make further gain.

February 28, 2008 at 03:02 PM · Precisely, Al. Opening the ears is the hardest part. I find the greatest education I get from the violin comes in the form of learning how to listen.

February 28, 2008 at 05:05 PM · "I find the greatest education I get from the violin comes in the form of learning how to listen." Wow, Kimberlee, this statement will stick to me for a long time I'm sure. Thank you!

Al, thanks for posting your daughter's performance. I played this piece when I was young and I never like the piece very much to be honest. It's been used so frequently that I found it very much cliché. Now your daughter has inspired me to go back to it again. I might even like it.

What you said about your daughter's response to your suggestion reminds of my own childhood. My dad was quite multitalented and I was a keen learner as a kid, but he couldn't teach me any specific skill that he was so capable of for the fact that I'd turn every feedback as either approval or disapproval, no matter how he presented it to me. Consequently, he stayed out of my entire educational proecess and just enjoy watching. He was a busy man in his own world and I kind of like that:)

February 28, 2008 at 05:35 PM · yes, yixi, those interesting family dynamics is sure interesting:) been there,,still doing it:)

my wife is much better in providing and promoting more independence in the kids, something i label as... spoiling the kids:) oh well, i will learn,,,

hey, how do you like this clip by hassid?

February 28, 2008 at 05:56 PM · OOOOHHH! Now you're speaking my language, Al. Hassid's Meditation is my absolute favorite. No one played it better. Notice how well he works his dynamics up towards that high intensity stormy spot--the E string section just before the stormy G string is soaring, open and pleading--he doesn't bear down on the violin until he gets to the G string, and then only with absolute elegance and grace. You need complete mastery over the speed and division of the bow to do that. And then you also need vision.

February 28, 2008 at 06:01 PM · i would trade my left arm to play like that:)

whenever i listen to that, i am engulfed in a torrent!

February 28, 2008 at 06:21 PM · If you traded your left arm, you COULDN'T play like that. ;-)

Hassid's Meditation is incredibly poetic. It's as beautiful as a Shakespeare sonnet. In fact, the Meditation is similar to a sonnet in many ways. Hassid's interpretation reminds me of John Donne's "Valediction Forbidding Mourning."

February 28, 2008 at 06:35 PM · What do you guys think of Jansen? This is what I would like the piece to be played. And in the light of what Ron said about movement of the body, I think the way she moved her body melted well with the music she was making:

February 28, 2008 at 06:55 PM · love it, too...a more "conventional" take imo. If hassid played his godly version with an orchestra with his variance in pace, that could drive the conductor nuts:) but then again, could be interesting,,,

yes, as i said earlier, i find ron's suggestion about body movement enlightening. even though it should come naturally from the heart, some basic orchestration won't hurt.

now, here is my dark secret,,,i have no problem with ladies moving with the music, but i am such a horrible:)male that if another male player moves like that, i feel,,um,, uneasy:):):), if you know what i mean.

February 28, 2008 at 07:04 PM · Yixi, I happen to like her interpretation very much and I think her body movements work well with this piece and with others I've heard/seen her play. The Hassid performance is outstanding- the vibrato and choice of portamenti so elegant and of the highest artistry. David Nadien's performance also possesses a wonderful charged vibrato full of sentiment and his timing/rubati are impeccable. It is so hard to choose a favorite- a great artist compels you to believe in their interpretation and perhaps that's what's so rare and remarkable- one is swept away by the conviction and selfless devotion of the performer putting all their knowledge and depth of feeling as an artist and a human being into a few short minutes of sublime music. Is it any wonder we love music so much and devote our lives to it with abandon. I'm so glad you created this post Al. It's just wonderful that your daughters are experiencing and sharing the gift of music. When they are grown adults I hope they'll be able to look back on their playing the Meditation together and realize what a miracle music making is and how it not only touched their lives and yours as their devoted father but how happy it has made us here on this website and all others who get to fall in love again with the magic of Massenet's Meditation from Thais.

P.S. And Kimberlee, bravo for all your insightful comments and especially regarding the greatest education coming from listening- so true!!!

February 28, 2008 at 07:32 PM · "a great artist compels you to believe in their interpretation and perhaps that's what's so rare and remarkable- one is swept away by the conviction and selfless devotion of the performer putting all their knowledge and depth of feeling as an artist and a human being into a few short minutes of sublime music." wow.

you don't even need to be exposed to classical music to be caught by the beauty of pieces like that. grandma and maid would put down their meat cleavers to come to listen:)

for kids exposed, it is like a seedling basking in light, nutrients and water. in the flashbacks at the end of our lives, those moments will no doubt tie in with music.

but of course, it will be a treat to reflect earlier and often, under better circumstances :) in this modern society, often siblings grow and live apart because of career/family/geography. delicate strings like this experience will help hold them closer.

February 28, 2008 at 10:43 PM · Thank you Ron, for your insightful comment and advice, and for agreeing with me! ;-) I too find hard to choose a favourite or to categorize a great artist one way or the other.

Al, I see what you say about the body movements, but I don’t think body movements should be taken as something merely external displays. I’d say, don’t worry how people move but just listen to the sound. Of course movement should always be avoided if they are not adding positively to the music one makes. But I also don’t think movements are necessarily a bad thing that should be avoided. I admire people can play beautifully and emotionally with complete stillness, but it’d be just as silly for me to imitate that stillness as to copy any movements of other players. I view them as something similar the facial expressions (especially the expressions the eyes) or gestures that go along when one talks: some needs more to properly express oneself and other less, and some enhance the expression and other distracts. Let the music and sound dictate is what I’d say.

February 29, 2008 at 12:46 AM · Yixi, I agree- it is true that body movements for the sake of showy effect and drama, in my mind, not only serve no sincere musical purpose, but detract from whatever musical effect might have been intended. I am strictly describing movements with the body that enhance the particular sound one wishes to get. I observed a violinist in a string quartet not long ago finish a loud chord at the end of a movement throwing his bow over his head and behind. I honestly could not for the life of me figure out how this gesture added anything to the power of the last note- it seemed superfluous, needlessly showy and in bad taste, something of a caricature.

But there are definitely physical movements that often go unnoticed or unexamined that indeed help create the sound one is after and one should observe and study such movements to expand one's vocabulary of sound and have more choices in the colors and shadings of tone. Some movements are more subtle, some less so. To use Janine Jansen as an example in the Meditation, as she starts the stormy middle section around 1:40 she pulls her bow and body together (accordion like) to push the movement of the triplets and flattens the table of her violin as she goes to longer more sustained rhythms. This physical movement may indeed be innate, instinctive and nothing she consciously thought about, but it is helpful to know that it works and when done naturally or acquired as part of one's technique to the point of it becoming second nature, it is a useful component of musical expression. It is also true that what is natural for one player is not for another player, but there are certain logical principles that can be understood and are useful. I hope that makes sense.

Further, addressing Al's original question about whether there is a right pace for this piece, certain physical movements are more appropriate for certain tempi than others so that is a consideration also. Using pizzicato as an example, if one plucks lightly and softly making small, short movements in a slow pizzicato passage in piano, the ring on the pizzicato may die away fairly quickly- from the audience's standpoint, the note may barely be heard, but if you pull the string sideways more deeply with your finger and extend the motion of your finger into the air somewhat beyond the point where it released from the string, both the aural and visual effect is of a note that lasted longer and therefore rang and was heard in the listener's ear better. If your pizzicati need to be loud and played at fast tempo, you will want to recover by way of rebounding back to the string quicker, and the movement will be more percussive and more or a vertical loop. Again, the movement will enhance the sound and the look of the movement will match the character of the music.

February 29, 2008 at 01:23 AM · Greetings,

the soudn of a loud pizz chord will also be enhanced by simultaneously moving the violin up and to the left a little. this also helps to reduce tension in orchestral rehears where liong passages iof pizz chords tend to become rather tiring becaus eplayers become rather static.



February 29, 2008 at 03:19 AM · Yes, Buri I'm glad you added that about the pizzicati. The same movement also helps in quickly discharging arco chords- moving the violin up and to the left while the bow pushes to the right- you use up the bow more quickly that way and the rush of energy in opposing directions creates a strong vibrant ringing quality in the chords. Of course the faster the succession of chords must be played, the narrower the movement like the ones played prior to the final page of Saint Saens' Introduction and rondo capriccioso.

February 29, 2008 at 04:21 AM · This physical movement may indeed be innate, instinctive and nothing she consciously thought about, but it is helpful to know that it works and when done naturally or acquired as part of one's technique to the point of it becoming second nature, it is a useful component of musical expression.

This is exactly it! Thank you Ron, for your detailed analysis on the stormy middle section. So interesting! I also like the way she slightly waves her body to draw the long bow around 00:58-1:03. Another example of “ useful component of musical expression”, I think.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide


Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine