Meditation and Emotions (Performance Feedback)

May 18, 2011 at 04:58 PM ·

I just posted my 9y old son performance of Meditation and I'd love to get your feedback about the performance, what could be improved and if needed, ideas about how make it even more exiting, how to stress the dynamics to better support the different moods in the piece?


Replies (53)

May 18, 2011 at 11:03 PM ·

 A nice performance, and 2nd string is better than just piano accomp.

This is not a piece I like, played by anyone, btw, so I can't comment on moods etc because to me its just a tedious slick. How sticky or gooey you do you like it.

Only advice I would offer is for your boy to pay as much attention to the ending as he does to the beginning. Don't let up attention to phrasing and intonation as he romps home.

He's got nice bow control to my eyes and ears.

May 19, 2011 at 01:46 AM ·

 I think it was a nice performance too. The microphones sounded a bit out of place though.

I would experiment with changing their location to different positions between the piano

and the instruments. 

May 19, 2011 at 02:31 AM ·

I've taught this song to kids your son's age. This is quite an emotional piece but yet you need to speak to a 9 year old.

What I've done is 2 things - ask the student to come up with some descriptive colors. For example pale yellow or hot pink. We write as many down as possible on cards. I then have the student pick out 3 cards. The challenge is to play 1 or 2 phrases of music using all three colors at some point. For example pale yellow may be an airy sounding bow and hot pink intense!

Next game has to do with timing. Rubato is your artistic license to fudge with the timing - as long as you get back on track. Therefore if you decide to hold a note out longer - you need to rush somewhere afterwards to get back on track. If you decide to push the speed then you'll need to follow up by slowing down. For this game I would pick one or the other. Let's say you pick practicing holding out notes and making up for it by picking up speed afterwards. I would have the student play and every once in a while I would raise my hand signaling "hold out this note longer" then leave it up to the student to make up for the time.

I would love for you to consider posting this and other videos of your son on a website I run for kids:! I hope to see you there!

Smiles! Diane

May 19, 2011 at 02:33 AM ·

I've taught this song to kids your son's age. This is quite an emotional piece but yet you need to speak to a 9 year old.

What I've done is 2 things - ask the student to come up with some descriptive colors. For example pale yellow or hot pink. We write as many down as possible on cards. I then have the student pick out 3 cards. The challenge is to play 1 or 2 phrases of music using all three colors at some point. For example pale yellow may be an airy sounding bow and hot pink intense!

Next game has to do with timing. Rubato is your artistic license to fudge with the timing - as long as you get back on track. Therefore if you decide to hold a note out longer - you need to rush somewhere afterwards to get back on track. If you decide to push the speed then you'll need to follow up by slowing down. For this game I would pick one or the other. Let's say you pick practicing holding out notes and making up for it by picking up speed afterwards. I would have the student play and every once in a while I would raise my hand signaling "hold out this note longer" then leave it up to the student to make up for the time.

I would love for you to consider posting this and other videos of your son on a website I run:! I hope to see you there!

Smiles! Diane

May 19, 2011 at 06:12 AM ·

Medition from Thais is about lust and redemption.Somehow i dont see how a nine year old can understand these concepts.As Thais emerges from her lustful life as a prostitute the holy man Athanael who is converting her to christainty succumes to lust for her.The internal conflicts of these two human beings has to be interpreted through the music.

May 19, 2011 at 09:51 AM ·

 my kid several years ago at age 7 played this piece. (perhaps 7 yo girl and 9 yo boy are equivalent in some areas)  i asked about the similar question here.  my kid had no idea about the the inner struggles and she reacted to the melody as it went and played out of instinct.  

i think often it is probably nicer to have all the historical pieces available to kids of these ages, or trying to be inventive to get their emotive wheel rolling, but one has to question how much is too much and whether they will be playing person A's music through person B's interpretation or formality by person C which is the kid performer.

here is the link to that discussion.  as usual i sounded there as if i knew what those heavy weights on this forum were talking about to get the show going.

ps.  i feel that this 9 yo boy played beautifully with outstanding left hand work. a role model of ease and grace.   but i feel deep inside he was not in control but went along with the melody and the 2 adults (if the adult man's bow had no rosin, would i have noticed any difference?)  as a result, there was no room for him to play out his version and his bowing work reflected that: just when he was about to finish a line, everyone else was onto the next line, including himself.  the decision of not wanting to be a hooker anymore should come with some hesitation.  there could be some elements of performance nerves, a bit of a rush built within, and if so, i think this rush in phrasing accentuated the lack of emotive expression.  so, played it differently, with more self assurance,  and people may think your emotion comes across more fully even if you have no idea about it and instead simply having exerted better control of YOUR OWN tempo. further, a lack of experience does not necessarily lead to a lack of musical imagination.  

caution: i am not a teacher nor violinist, but when i grow up i aim to be a critic just like others, to prove a point or two..

May 19, 2011 at 11:05 AM ·

An outstanding performance from a nine year old kid playing in front of a church congregation. That is enough to kill any emotion, but he plays beautifully. Bow arm and hand impeccable, model left hand fingering, tonal very good. He cannot at his age have the mature emotion of having seen a converted hooker, but he has time on his side.

Don' t be too concerned about the critics they all have to prove a point.  

May 19, 2011 at 03:41 PM ·

thanks for the interesting input.

I do think that this piece can be played and explained without using the words "prostitute", "lust" and "hooker". As I'd like my son to read your very valuable comments I'd appreciate if you could remove those words from your messages.

The piece could (to me) translate different stages of a dream or thoughts, like redemption but also excitement and then peace.

@sharelle, oh yes, paying attention is difficult for him. I ask him to think about a story and keep reading until the punch line.

Microphones were not used. The camera captured a little too much reverberation of the church.

@Diane, Yes. It is difficult for him to add his own interpretation yet like rubato.  I like the game idea to make kids learn without realizing they are working

@janet, I think there are other emotions that can be used in that piece. I like the idea of "conflict" you mention. Don't you think one could think of different types of conflict or different stages of one's day?

yes girls are more mature than boys.

In fact I am the 2nd violin and I was trying to follow him while i think he was trying not to lose me ;-) I swear i played but i was also trying not to overpower him.
I am not sure i am doing him a favor to play with him. While i enjoy it and it helps him practice more effectively i feel it constraints his sense of freedom. I may over read into it and as you said boys are less mature and he is still shy to express himself.
The decision to change one's life certainly brings some hesitations. I like the idea of rush and then restraint.
I think finding your own story would be a big help to playing the piece with more personal touch. The challenge is getting him started, finding his own works.

As his dad I cannot agree more his performance was fantastic! And as his practice partner and coach I know he can give more and I am looking for ideas how to help him better express his own musical voice.

@John, if you're talking about my bowing, yes i got it mixed up and i also wanted to start upbow to not over power him. Thanks for the analogy to put it my bag of tricks and thanks for the encouragements

May 19, 2011 at 05:26 PM ·

Beautiful playing --- obviously a very talented (and well-taught) kid!

I don't think we give children enough credit when it comes to understanding complicated emotions.  I think any 9-year-old can grasp the idea that it's possible to really really want something that you know you really shouldn't have, and that keeping a promise can be difficult, and that deciding whether the promise ought to be kept can be really difficult.

I often encourage my students to create stories or scenarios to help envision what the music is trying to say (in their view).  I tell them that every note is like a word in the story, and when you're telling a story, you have to modulate your voice to fit what's happening.  So, for example:

Starting with the opening of the piece:  the first measure that the violin plays is a simple arpeggio.  You're thinking about the thing you want, and how wonderful it is.  But right away (B-C#-D) you remember "but I promised," and the music drops back down to where it started.  It's like he's saying "... so I guess I shouldn't."  But immediately (after the long B-natural) the music starts heading upward again --- "I want it" --- and the response is a little more complicated --- "I'll be very unhappy if I don't get it."    The "want it/shouldn't have it" impulses battle with each other throughout the piece, and the questions (and answers) get bigger as it goes along:  eventually the person is asking himself something like "What kind of person will I be if I break a promise (a promise I made to God, no less)?  And yet breaking that promise seems like my only chance at happiness.  Should I become a person who breaks his word in order to be happy?  Does God want me to be happy, or does he want me to sacrifice my chance at happiness to prove that I can keep a promise?"   These are BIG questions, and very complicated.  You can't let your "voice" sound the same as it did at the very beginning, or it will sound like when someone reads out loud who is not good at reading out loud.  The words are there, but the person --- the storyteller --- is not telling the story.

In any piece, when the opening returns again, it's like coming back home after a long journey:  everything looks the same, but it's not the same because you've changed.  (The hobbits returning to the Shire after their Big Adventure, for example)  So here we are back where we started, at the question of "I want to / I know I shouldn't," only by now we've thought about all the things it could mean if we choose one way, and all the things it could mean if we choose the other way.

The thing I love about this particular piece is that it seems like the protagonist has reached a decision by the end of it, but you can't really tell what the decision is.  At about 3:40 (in this video) is the place where it sounds like the piece is over, but then (about 3:45) there's one last sigh of regret --- looking through that door one last time before closing it forever --- and then he finally decides that yes, he is at peace with his decision --- whatever he's decided.

The wonderful thing about music is that it contains all the emotional meaning of words, but without being limited to specific meanings.  This piece could be telling a story about a priest who is contemplating breaking his vows, or about a boy who promised to take care of his dog and never let anything bad happen to him, but now he has to decide whether to have the dog put to sleep (an "Old Yeller" type story).   The wonderful thing about being a musician is that, as long as you're telling a story, it doesn't matter exactly what that story is.  Every listener will come up with his or her own story, as long as you're telling one.  (And it's important to remember that the story is in the music, you can't just pretend it's whatever you're thinking about at the moment.  This piece is not a story about a boy trying to remember what comes next, and play in tune, and hold his bow straight, and make a good sound.)

Oh dear.  I seem to have gone on & on & on... again.  Sorry.

May 19, 2011 at 06:09 PM ·

Meditate, To dwell on anything in thought and the revolving of a subject in the mind. This is the expression that David Garrett conveys in his rendition of Meditation.

There may be other renditions that are better but I find the expression on his face says it all.


May 19, 2011 at 07:54 PM ·

I do think that this piece can be played and explained without using the words "p____", "l___" and "h___". [Edited by request]

...but letting a little child play that piece... lol - is there no other music for 9 years olds? And what's wrong with those words? They describe something real.

btw. I always thought the story behind Thais to be completely wrong. What a sad thing - an educated, self-confident woman throwing all away and hiding in a cell, wasting her time and talents with endless praying and surrendering to a imaginative supernatural being...

I read the story different when playing that great piece: A gifted, life-hungry woman quitting the submission and limitations of a nunnery and opening herself to the real life with men, women, culture, and self-fulfillment. What a joy.

But I may be wrong...


May 19, 2011 at 08:17 PM ·

Tobias, is one of the few communities i enjoy because of the quality of the interactions and the respect of the its members.

You created a post to request feedback, spark discussion and share ideas. You did none of that. You just talked about YOU without bringing anything of value into the discussion and you were disrespectful of my request to not use certain words I don't want my children to be exposed to yet.

Now be responsible, delete or change your post or go troll onto another internet forum.



May 19, 2011 at 08:20 PM ·


Please don't apologize your post was excellent. Exactly what i am looking for.

May 19, 2011 at 09:14 PM ·

Marc, your wish is my command...

(But questioning why someone would let a 9 year old child play a piece about a hetaera in public
 but make a fuss when the matter is discussed, is not trolling. If you want feedback, you'll have to accept not only the praise, but also the questions)

May 19, 2011 at 09:25 PM ·

When I was at school in England we studied an abbridged version of Shakespeare where all words that were considered inappropriate were cut out or changed and this resulted in a  sometimes incomprehesible narrative that did nothing to stimulate the reader to read on.Infact the subtle play of words that was Shakespeares real genius was totally ignored and only the basic narrative remained.Yes we studied Shakespeare but were not impassioned by his works and his genius remained a mystery.Of course it is possible to invent any story to any music but as this composition has is part of an opera and the the story of the opera is about Thais and the priest I think personally in order to do justice to the work the interpeter should be aware of what the music is describing.Inventing a different story line is like presenting the abridged version.By the way I think your son plays beautifully for a nine year old I am just unsure about the choice of the piece.

May 19, 2011 at 09:35 PM ·

Bruce has said it nicely and i need to quote it for you

" The wonderful thing about being a musician is that, as long as you're telling a story, it doesn't matter exactly what that story is."

When people listen to this piece, do you think they think about the story told in the opera?

That's what great about instrumental music is that every one has it's one interpretation.

@Tobias and @Janet, come on, this is not censorship, this is music. The music is beautiful and everybody can make up his or her own story.



May 19, 2011 at 10:07 PM ·

Marc, I think that the words you object to are an integral part of the discussion. As someone who would like to learn this piece in the future, I find the discussion very interesting and informative. If you want your son to read some of the feedback, wouldn't it make more sense if you download this thread and make a private edit that is age-appropriate for your son, instead of asking everyone to self-censor their posts for your son?

I'm also in the camp that thinks it's important to choose the music that can be understood by the player. Didn't we hear the saying "A musician's job is to serve the composer and the music" all the time?  If the essence of the music is taken away, wouldn't it just become an empty exercise? That's why when an inexperienced youngster attempts a profound piece such as the Beethoven Violin Concerto, it's often frowned upon.

May 19, 2011 at 11:03 PM ·

BTW, I don't think Thais's profession is important in terms of this meditation.  Athanael is alone onstage during this piece, thinking about what it would mean to break his vows.  He could be in love with a nun, or a married woman, or an "honest" single woman for that matter, and his situation would be pretty much the same.  What Thais does for a living is more relevant for her part of the story --- someone giving up a life of sin & thoughtless pleasure for a more spiritual, fulfilling existence.  It's a compelling story line (and there's room for a lot of fabulous sets & costumes), but not relevant to this piece.

May 20, 2011 at 12:03 AM ·

Marc, the real test for me is: Would I want to play this track a second time?  Yes.  In fact, I played it four times this afternoon and evening -- audio only on last two playbacks.

I'm not a teacher, and it's hard for me to give feedback on "what could be improved and … how to stress the dynamics to better support the different moods in the piece" -- without actually being right there in the same room.  So I'll accentuate -- almost entirely -- the positives in Maxence's rendition and save the nit-picking for my own practice sessions.

First, I thought the bow control, mentioned earlier, and overall intonation were remarkably good.  The vibrato sounded and looked quite free and well developed.  Position work and shifting -- ditto.  I wish I could have heard this on a recording done with external microphones, but maybe some other time.  Still, I have no doubt Maxence will develop into a strong player if he wants to keep going -- no idea what his plans are.

There were just a couple of times between 0:40 and 0:50 when I thought he could have carried the up-bow all the way back to the heel of the bow.  This is one thing I remember my first teacher saying very early: "Use more bow."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Joyce has already made my point -- i.e., about you being the one to download the thread and re-edit it to be age appropriate.  And Tobias does have a point; he wasn't trolling.  If his post had been mine instead, I would have declined to edit it down but would have said, as Pontius Pilate did at John 19:22, "What I have written, I have written."

Although I don't know you, I sense that you're a concerned, involved dad -- the sort America needs more of, the sort who help kids turn out better and don't encourage them to grow up too fast.

I have no qualms about a 9-year-old playing the Meditation -- especially if it really grabs him.  Then, too, how many in the pews know the story behind it anyway -- let alone the Massenet opera itself, words or music?  Even if they all knew, that shouldn't exclude the Meditation from worship services -- since redemption is, let us hope, a high-priority subject there.

May 20, 2011 at 01:07 AM ·

For a 9 yr old that was a great performances. I think the left hand techniques for his age is also great. I particularly like his vibrato. In terms of emotions and all, he's 9, what would the audience expect? maybe in the futures, when he can understand what its all about.

I've seen a 15 yr old played theendelsonh vn concerto, it was beautiful, thennocence of the piece was just there, but othe than that it was more   about how competent he was in terms of techniques and all, but as audience, I enjoyed it, the same way I  enjoyed your son's performance.

Bravo to you, the teacher and to your son, who's a star of the show. :)


May 20, 2011 at 08:18 AM ·

Bruce, there seems to be two different versions of the Meditation.In my version the piece joins the two scenes in act two and describes Thais's conversion.With this in mind the story line would be somewhat different with the first part of the piece reflecting on past immoralities with a fall from grace , plummenting to the depths at the end of bar 39.Her spiritual resurection begins at bar 40.I ask my students to consider playing the return of the theme at bar 40 pianissimo without vibrato , an absolute pure sound at the revelation of a spiritual existance and and only slowly introducing at the upbeat of bar 44.The increase should be very gradual so that by the time one arrives at bar 48 full colour and vibrato has returned but not in the sensual way that was used in the first part of the piece but in a sweet and innocent way.As her spirituality is realised and she is moving towards higher planes there is a moment of doubt at bar 65 and 66 that is quashed and she rises towards that state that Tobias considers boring.

May 20, 2011 at 10:59 AM ·

 i tend to agree with john on that, not because it is necessarily a fact that children feel "stronger".  besides, can't compare this piece with beethovan concertos,,,

beautiful music is beautiful music; it can be understood and enjoyed acoustically and musically.  that is how children learn, from the first day of their lives; they imitate and try and fail and get better in the process.

on a case by case basis, some children can be and should be introduced to advanced music early and through later years pick up more pieces, say, the historical aspects.  there is a value on being able to explain why 2 times 2 equals to 4.  at the same time, if one is not able to do so, it is perfectly okay to "remember" or "memorize" 2x2=4 first and let time simmers on it.  with each passing day we look at the sameness of the world differently. it is perfectly ok to work on the tech aspect and be close to clueless on the historical aspect...that is children's prerogative. but some children are musically and technically ready (not perlman ready, but not suzuki first book either) and they should attempt or be encouraged to learn advanced pieces, not only to stimulate technical and musical development, but also to stimulate the kids' cognitive and psychological growth.  one can easily see who have benefited from classical training by high school level imo.  More inner calm, more worldly in a sophisticated way,  more mature, not because they were like that before, but the learning process of tackling difficult music has stimulated them into growing at a faster rate. 

besides, all teachers think differently on when is appropriate for what.  murders have been committed over arguing over fingerings.  just have to do what one has to do and go from there.  by the time there is a consensus, it is too late and not worth the thrill and excitement of carving one's own path.  in addn, some children, having heard some tougher pieces, want to give them a try.  why go out of one's way to curb the enthusiasm just because it has never been done before?  

having said that, i am curious how the op has introduced this piece of music to his kid.  it seems that everyone has something to say on how this piece should be played and interpreted but lets shift the focus back to the kid and the op.   lets hope his picking this piece is not some sort of spiritual struggle:) 

May 20, 2011 at 11:59 AM ·

Marc: you asked for feedback and opinions and Tobias provided exactly that.  Indeed, IMO it was one of the most interesting posts on this topic (I just read them all) that you could have taken as a key to a different approach to teach your child - but instead you (I think quite rudely) shut him down.  That makes me wonder about the real objective of your inquiry.  Too often I see questions about 'how good is my child?" (sincere request for feeback) which are really thinly caged "How good is my child!"  and a rather different implication.  I'm not yet sure which this one is, but I have to wonder.

I was once at a science retreat in Ireland and the local farmers brought their children in for a music evening.  It was quite amusing to hear the little kids singing songs about rape, prostitution, murder and disgorgement - which they obviously had no idea about the meaning.  The result was both pretty - in a sort of choir-boy way - and absurd.  The fault in interpretation was not with the listner - who like Tobias is giving an honest opinion - but with the parent that selected this material.  By all means give your child beautiful music to play with a particular meaning (and Thais is just that) but please don't shoot the messengers who are replying sincerely to the artistic missive that you sent.

May 20, 2011 at 12:16 PM ·

 but marc did not ask: should i ask my kid to try to play this piece based on the concern that there are emotional issues to tackle born out of the context that may not be appropriate for young kids?

he put the video out for others to criticize but he asks for ways to handle the emotional expression specific to the music.  he did not ask the forum to tell him whether it is an age appropriate piece for his son to try and why.    

so when other posters, having seen the kid already performed it in public, say things like: can't you find other pieces for your 9 yo to try, based on the thinking-i will just call it like that- that the historical aspect is inappropriate for his kid, it is rather confrontational if not condescending,  and really, not helpful to op's intent and concerns.  essentially, those posters did not provide any meaningful reply on how to teach kids to deal with emotional expressions often thought to be beyond their years.  a positive thread is being turned into one with helplessness and hopelessness, like someone doing well in the sex trade having to retrain for another career.   marc asked: how to deal with it.  some suggested: don't deal with it. duh.

i give honest opinions all the time on but that does not mean i have been appropriate.:)   

May 20, 2011 at 02:29 PM ·

Al are you saying then that the original purpose of the music is not a factor in how it is supposed to be played?  I think that is central to the original question on musicality.

May 20, 2011 at 02:46 PM ·

In case you have not noticed this is a thread I started about meditations from J. Massenet played by a 9y old. I am not asking for parenting advice if this piece is appropriate, if a 9y old should know about the profession of the actor in the opera from which the piece is extracted. In my opinion children should not be exposed to those words. This is NOT a thread to discuss that.

At this age I think it's important for players to understand how to add nuances. If you have anything to add to the discussion that can help great otherwise, please create your own post and stop polluting mine.

May 20, 2011 at 02:52 PM ·

 elise, i think there will be a lot of different takes on this issue, actually, these issues,,,for instance, at what age to play what,  how much historical background should dictate how a young kid learns a piece, etc.

that is why i suggested that it will be a good starting point for the op to share with us on how and what he had shared with his kid in preparation for this recital and in learning the piece.

my opinion is that to fully understand the historical background, for very young players, is not a prerequisite to playing the pieces well or benefiting from the learning experience.  not all the pieces have to be in place to get the ball rolling.  it is a judgement call by the teachers to select students appropriately. (and i think this 9 yo is totally ready for it)  i strongly believe that this piece can be played and enjoyed by younger players without knowing ANYTHING  about the juicy and gooey details.  and i expect opposing opinions, but me like mine better:)

the music speaks for itself. isn't that pretty obvious after just one phrase? doesn't the 1st 5 notes already set the direction where this is going?  why do i need someone else to tell me to bring out the emotion when the emotion is already in the air and on the fingertips? to accurately reflect what?  why not get a robot if you want accuracy?   on the other hand, how many of us are emotionally tuned in, historically informed and yet so violinistically not ready that we bring the world a product of constipation?  pieces missing there as well, isn't it?  isn't the beauty of learning music is that we march on knowing that we are not perfectly ready?

music is a language that is within all of us, actually most of us,,,actually many of us, actually some of us,,happy now? :)

for instance, lets say there is one transition line that requires the student to nuance it differently, which requires bowing tech, left hand to go with it, and most importantly an understanding and mental awareness and anticipation.  right there, you can belabor the kid with this historical-let-me-tell-you talk, or simply inquire with the kid what he thinks that section is trying to convey and how he can more effectively convey it.  that moment of enlightening does not require historical context but modern day analogy if necessary, esp dealing with kids.   since i am not a teacher or musician, that is the best i can come up with.  but, i am confident that many people who are not well versed in this opera story are fully capable of slowing the kid down and encouraging him to explore and savor that moment in question.  a little less dictatorship,,, a little more trust and freedom.  after all, it is not communist china here. hehe.

May 20, 2011 at 04:17 PM ·

Marc, since any original post from you or me or any other member, once the site editors have approved it and posted it, is open to public reading and member repsonse, you're going to have to be prepared for a lot of stuff.  No one has polluted your thread.  No one has given parenting advice -- at least, not at this writing.  Read through the thread again line by line -- you won't find it.  No one in this thread has violated any of the site's Rules for Writers.

More on your reply to Tobias: "… you were disrespectful of my request to not use certain words I don't want my children to be exposed to yet."  What Tobias actually did, before he edited down those words at your request -- and I wish he hadn't edited them down -- was to quote the very words you yourself wrote in the reply four posts above his.  At this writing, your words are still there -- intact, unedited.

More on Joyce's point about you being the one to download the thread and edit the contents privately for your son -- rather than ask site members to edit their on-screen replies: Even if some authors felt inclined to do this, some of them may have already decided not to follow the thread any longer; so the odds are that you'll never see the on-screen thread itself cleaned up to the extent you'd like.

May 20, 2011 at 04:20 PM ·

Janet:  you are right!  I looked it up in the libretto.  They argue about her salvation and HE leaves, leaving HER to do the meditating.  I was remembering it the other way around, and had been for years apparently.  Hoopsy-daisy. 

Well, I guess I can't stand by my version of the story any more (which is too bad --- I kind of like my version :-/ ), but I still stand by the idea that when you play it you don't have to be thinking specifically of this story for it to be an effective performance. 

Thanks for setting me straight, even though I kind of hate being wrong on the internet.

May 20, 2011 at 05:13 PM ·

 It's true that people can say what they want to say on the discussion board, as long as it does not violate the rules for writers.

However, I must take issue with the idea that Meditation from Thais is inappropriate for a nine-year-old! Music, however programmatic in its conception, is still music. It can be helpful to know the thoughts behind the composition, or in this case, the context within the opera. But the music itself addresses root emotions that certainly a nine-year-old can relate to: redemption, longing, peace, conflict. 

After all, when Stravinsky wrote "Rite of Spring," he did not intend it as Demise of the Dinosaurs, but it certainly works to illustrate that idea. 

Also, this piece has become a standard in the violin repertoire, and it is certainly performed very frequently, out of its context in the opera Thais. It's played for weddings, funerals, during religious services, etc. and it is taught to students. IMO, this is JUST FINE!

May 20, 2011 at 05:33 PM ·

I think we would all agree that the music is totally fine for any age, Laurie - music is music, I've yet to hear any that I would discourage anyone to listen to or play.  I don't think that was the contentious issue: rather to what extent the original poster could censor discussion with respect to the question asked.  Its an interesting question - but I for one would probably be here rather little if all debate had to stay within those narrow confines - often the most interesting points and issues are stimulated by the topic and not necessarily exactly on it.

May 20, 2011 at 06:32 PM ·

John, when I said "understand," I did not mean at the intellectual level, but rather having the life experience to convey the depth of the piece - for example, telling a child to "think about that time when you wanted the ice cream so bad but Mom said no" to emulate a lover's heartbreak is probably not going to result in a very convincing performance...

When the performer feels the music, the audience feels it too - in my teacher's recent recital, a first grader played "Amazing Grace" that almost moved me to tears. Mind you - I'm not the religious or sentimental kind... The music was in the simplest form - simple tune, no vibrato, solo, as he had just come back from his grandparent's funeral and there was no time to work with the accompanist, but I sensed that he really grasped the meaning of the music and was sincere...  That impressed me much more than the 13-year-old playing the Bruch Concerto.

May 20, 2011 at 07:17 PM ·


Congratulations on your son's progress.  He plays remarkably well at his age.  I also have a 9 year old.  And like you, I am his main teacher outside of private lessons.  My son is just getting to the point where it is really fun playing duets with him.  One day, I am hoping that we might form a string quartet; that is, if he will tolerate playing with his old man, who literally is an old man.

Regarding the polluting of the thread and censorship, I have to agree with others that I value the fact that this forum is for the most part uncensored.  I'm sure that Laurie bites her tongue frequently with some of the posts, but I personally would not be interested in participating in a forum that is censored or one where all the comments are rated G (for you violin nerds, I'm NOT referring to the G-String).  Even though this is a violin forum, many of the threads diverge in other directions and frequently the subject matter is not appropriate for youngsters. 

Call me a heathen, but I question whether the word "prostitute" is something you need to shield your child from.  My son has already learned all the dirty words in the book from classmates with older siblings.  When he asked me what the F word means, I just told him it is a very impolite word that he should never say out loud.  My point is, kids are going to learn about this stuff whether we like it or not -- better to tell them straight than to pretend it doesn't exist.  Just my 2 cents.


May 21, 2011 at 07:29 AM ·

I'm with Elise & Tobias.


May 21, 2011 at 09:30 AM ·

Personally, I don't think that anyone in this thread should be censored. The history of a piece is as vital as the piece itself in my opinion, and I believe that it is important for your son to know that Meditation is about someone who lived a life doing things that they weren't proud of, but decided to turn it around for the love of a god. The story conveyed in Meditation is beautiful in my eyes.

If you want your son to be able to read our comments, chances are that there were some areas that he would need clarification in, so doing minor editing for more nine year-old appropriate grammar and language would be necessary anyway. Even having gone to a Catholic school, I learned most of the "bad" words from my peers at around nine or ten, so there is a strong possibility that he has heard them anyway.

Going back on the topic of his performance, I thought it was very nice, especially considering his age. He has a very well developed vibrato, good intonation, and good bow control. In some areas, he seemed to avoid the lower part of his bow, something that I, too, am guilty of sometimes. I remember reading on an interview of Sarah Chang, it might have been on this site, that Dorothy DeLay would ask her what she thought she should fix or work on instead of just telling her what to do. First, let your son play this for you unaccompanied. Ask him what he thinks of the piece, such as the mood and the story that the composer might have been wanting to tell when writing it. You might find that he is accurate to the actual history behind the piece. Then ask him how he thinks that he could express that story better, whether by adding a little more vibrato here or there, or changing the vibrato speed and range. If he wants to add a slight crescendo or decrescendo anywhere, with good reason of course. It's these little things that turn into big things that make such beautiful pieces like Meditation even more beautiful.

May 21, 2011 at 11:22 AM ·

 i think people are putting the word into op's mouth by suggesting he was trying to censor others or their opinions.  short of laurie herself taking an active part in this,  to suggest that the op can censor anything in this open forum is not convincing.

he started a thread and has some idea how he would like it to develop.  some posters, like me, care less about the thread development in my own thread or others', but other posters may be more serious about it.  as fellow posters, we may need to take that into consideration, if we care to. some we can joke with, others better not. we can indeed get away with posting whatever we like, as most posters are suggesting, even if we have been told by the op that he does not appreciate the certain direction the thread is heading.  it is up to us to continue to justify it as being helpful and honest.    

a poster wrote this: "but letting a little child play that piece... lol - is there no other music for 9 years olds?"

when was the last time the posters on this forum communicated with others with that tone of a voice?   did you not get fired?  did you not lose a client?  did you not have to pay a visit to the principle's office?  did you not have to sleep on the couch?  did you not end up pissing people off?

when a father who is apparently actively involved in teaching this talented kid saw this line, especially with the "laughing out loud" part in the mix, he might find the connotation too jovial, if not inappropriate and destructive, or simply off topic.  this "lol" can be easily taken as a gesture of sneer in this context.  parenting advice that is not for sure!  it is a put down, made worse with the lol business.  in real life if one delivers that line to the wrong people at the wrong time, a fist punch may be coming one's way.  here is the other music,,,BAMM!

people can always afterwards explain themselves, but it is difficult to take away an impression.  most people on this forum i suspect do not understand what the father and kid have had to go through to deliver a performance of that caliber.  so if the father is considered a little serious or even uptight, i appreciate it and i respect it.

and please people, thinking that the op needs help to convey the story behind the music to his kid is rather naive.  he clearly was asking about the step beyond that, how to connect tech with emotion.  

May 21, 2011 at 12:26 PM ·

Good points Al.  As always, a fair and objective point of view

May 21, 2011 at 02:31 PM ·

Marc - your son plays beautifully. I wish I could play half as well as that.

However you have to understand that if you ask a question in  an un-moderated public forum such as this you cede control to the people who respond to it. And in fairness to those with whom you disagree: I feel that their responses were freely and sincerely given and should be accepted as such.

May 21, 2011 at 05:50 PM ·

and please people, thinking that the op needs help to convey the story behind the music to his kid is rather naive.  he clearly was asking about the step beyond that, how to connect tech with emotion.  

The story line is the emotion

May 21, 2011 at 06:42 PM ·

al ku makes a good point. i would even argue that even an adult with a musical instinct and is emotionally and mentally sensitive need not know the story line.

however, this is not a reason enough not to know the story if the story and access to it is available, child or adult. i don't see why a child should not be informed of these things spoken of here. but thats a person family limit one sets up for one's own and in my opinion, it puts the child at a disadvantage teaching him to fear the unknown...and maybe have an unhealty fixiation...anyway, this may or may not occur, but its not failr to ask or expect others to be prudish. the chld will start using all the f words and the s words and the d words and the c words and the a words bhind your back anyway; one is only deceiving oneself by thinking otherwise. and why not? there is poetry in these words as well, there is forte in using the f word! one might as well lisen and play elevator music all the time ...inoffensive and banal

May 21, 2011 at 08:22 PM ·

Al, those who know me respect me especially because I always am honest. Given the choice, I would always prefer honesty to politeness or political correctness. What is the best I can give? My honest answer to a question. And "lol" is exactly what happened:

A proud daddy presents his kid in public, letting him play a well known piece (about a questionable woman) in a church.  He asks for opinions, but he doesn't want to discuss the piece, because it's inappropriate for a kid.

Well, isn't that funny?

May 21, 2011 at 09:04 PM ·

 "The story line is the emotion"  well, we can argue then to some degree every piece of music is about emotion and the discussion comes to an end.  

we can say that this short piece embodies an unique set of emotions.  having said that, i do not believe a child can necessarily play better simply because he is told about the specifics of the involved emotions.  i think what is missing here--and everywhere with everyone's playing at one point in time when dealing with a new piece- is how to use tech to convey the emotion appropriately.  

we can tell the kid to play in a way that shows that you are hesitant about the future, but in some way looking for a change perhaps. but without solid tech abilities and enlightening guidance on how to apply the techs, most kids cannot effectively express more than just happy and sad..  

thus, in my opinion, most of the work to be done is about learning tech and linking the tech to the emotion which needs not to be overplayed here, esp since the kid is so young.  if a kid can competently convey an emotion on the violin without prior tech training, that is what i call genius and i have not seen one in the violin field.  they were all prepped to look like genius to beguile us:)

no one is perfect.  i am certainly not and do not aspire to be.  i have given my take on this situation: a sensitive, caring father with a talented kid becomes sensitized to some insensitive remarks.  no biggie.  we move on.  but since the violin world is not that big, you people may want to save something for the rainy days:)

i just think it will be so much more interesting if you guys can share with the board how to express certain specific emotional lines on the violin,,,with what tech to achieve what effect.

May 21, 2011 at 09:50 PM ·

No it's not funny because I did not ask for opinions about the choice of the piece nor the real story behind because amazingly only people here care. Many people in the audience knew about the story were moved by the performance and never questioned a single second the choice of the piece for a 9 year old.

You see for my son this music makes him think about "A Day at the Beach". I asked him to write a story about the piece and he wrote a beautiful little story about waves and birds. HIS story served well the performance and don't need other explanation. Frankly are you naive to think that knowing that the story is about a prostitute will make anyone perform better? Absolutely not. Now, creating your own story and figuring out different variations of dynamics to support the story will help a lot.

Unlike many people here I have read all Baudelaire so i am far from being prude and politically correct and each parent knows what's best for his child. So let's mind our own business as Al was the only one to understand I naively hoped to keep this post on topic and talk about technique.

The topic is "get your feedback about the performance, what could be improved and if needed, ideas about how make it even more exiting, how to stress the dynamics to better support the different moods in the piece"

Yes it's about technique. Too many people are way over thinking the need to know the story line. Music gets interesting when interpreters bring their own story, in short bring something new. I was also surprised myself to learn how simple variations of bow speed can have a big impact on the audience. The topic is really to discuss bow speed and the like. 

@Smiley, my son also learned the bad words at school like everyone before and after but prostitute is not one he learned yet.  I'd love to perform a Bach double of Fathers & Sons. Ping me any time. 

May 22, 2011 at 03:10 AM ·

in matters involving sex, baudelaire is a prude compared to rimbaud  :o) very..erm...fertile imagination. :oP

May 22, 2011 at 06:17 AM ·

Since none of us know exactly what your son is trying to express in his version of the story it is rather difficult to give hints on interpretaion. The bow speed and when to move towards the bridge or fingerboard rather depend on how you as an individual see the phrase developing.Are we starting out the day at sunrise on an empty beach watching the early morning birds swooping down for their breakfast.Is there a last minute struggle for life before a seagull finishes off a fish. Music is not just a craft but an art and if your son has a stort line only those that know it can help him. 

May 22, 2011 at 06:50 AM ·

Another thing that we all have to keep in mind is that approx. 20% of everything we do --- volume, dynamic contrasts, vibrato, rubato, color changes --- is going to be lost on its way to the audience.  You have to develop a perspective of "what is this going to sound like 50 feet away" and adjust accordingly. (Anyone who's ever heard Zukerman, for example, up close, knows what I'm talking about.)  It might not be too early for your son to start thinking about this...

May 22, 2011 at 01:51 PM ·

Indeed Bruce Bodden! I have seen Zukerman on the first row and it just sounded HORRIBLE! Scratchy Scratchy

May 23, 2011 at 03:43 PM ·

"Unlike many people here I have read all Baudelaire …." -- Marc, you're definitely ahead of me there, and it's a safe guess that many others here haven't read all of him; but unless you've actually sampled the whole audience, how would you know?

"… each parent knows what's best for his child." -- I don't doubt that this is true in your case.  Based on my observations, it's true in most cases; but in some dysfunctional families, the parents have no idea.  When I was in school, the worst discipline cases -- those leading to suspension, expulsion, time in juvenile detention centers -- were the very kids of such parents.  It turns out that some of these moms and dads didn't even like kids to begin with -- but they kept having them anyway.

"So let's mind our own business …." -- I know what you're driving at here; but again, once you bring up a subject on the board, you've made it our business.  Anyone else on the board is entitled to respond to it -- pro or con.  Or, as actor Jimmy Stewart says in the 1959 film Anatomy of a Murder: "The cat's out of the bag; it's fair game for me to chase it."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Back to the main subject: "… get your feedback … how to stress the dynamics to better support the different moods in the piece": You and your son's teacher should know best, since you're the ones working directly with the kid.  It sounds like 'A Day at the Beach,' which you mentioned earlier, is a good prop for now.  Give it time.  Think of the petals of a flower.  You can't force them open.  Well, actually, you can -- but the results aren't pretty.

May 23, 2011 at 07:29 PM ·

I remember reading an article about a local violin phenom Brandon Garbot (He will be playing in the upcoming Starling-DeLay Symposium) - his teacher said that he came to lesson with marks in his sheet music on phrasing and dynamics about certain musical passages: “vanilla, raspberry, chocolate, dark chocolate.” And when he played, she could practically taste the flavors leaping off the page.  It would take a highly skilled violinist to be able to achieve that but I find the idea brilliant and refreshing.

May 23, 2011 at 10:30 PM ·

"vanilla, raspberry, chocolate, dark chocolate, flavors leaping of the page"

Very interesting analogy. His playing must be a culinary delight and a mouth watering experience. When he runs the gambit of flavors he should be welcome to play in any restaurant.  

May 23, 2011 at 11:35 PM ·

But I suspect that without those hints, his teacher might not have tasted the same flavors in his playing...

May 24, 2011 at 02:30 AM ·

Marc, you have a remarkably talented son. His playing was beautiful.

Concerning his expressiveness  I think the pianist comes into question. Maybe he wanted to have an agogic accent here or there, or poco rit. here or there or a little rubato but the pianist must be willing to follow him and this is where it gets sticky. After all, he's just a nine year old, what does he know about this stuff? ( I don't know that she thought this but it's possible subconsciously ) Maybe he thought he had to be sure to follow her, she is the adult, right? She has to be willing to be an accompanist, not just a piano player. I have played with "piano players" and also with "accompanists" and the difference is amazing. I don't want to denigrate her but it is something to think about.

I think your son has a grand future as a violinist.

May 26, 2011 at 06:48 PM ·


A beautiful piece of music, played very well, by your own flesh and blood, in front of a public audience. A whole series of challenges. A huge accomplishment by your own flesh and blood.I can imagine the pride you feel.

Reminds me of when my daughter was ~13 and played (clarinet) of one of my all time favorite pieces of music (2nd movement of Mozart's clarinet concerto) at a music competition. After that, I realized all the money spent on lessons, the 3K I spent on the clarinet, and every other dollar spent on her was well worth those 2 minutes. There was something to those american express commercials after all.

Expressiveness/emotion is not going to come from a nine year old. That is the equivelent of improvisation which is something that builds over time and experiences, it will happen.

I'm sure you are very proud. Enjoy and best of luck!

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