What makes playing "emotional?"
I've become very interested in how people process emotions, both by listening to and making music. I'm curious what people define as "emotional playing" when there aren't any words. Is it the techniques used to express emotion such as tempo changes and good use of dynamics? Is it bow articulations? Is it the facial expressions or body language of the performer? Is it the release of emotions the performer experiences while playing? What are your thoughts?
It's a complex number of factors built in to the music, the phrasing, articulation, changing of vibrato, changing the sound during the notes (I forget the term for this), etc.
How much you buck and sway while you play.
There are plenty of recordings that are ‘emotional’ without any visual cues. Usually, it is managing to create the impression of the human voice that makes it happen. Menuhin sounding like a Judy Garland from some exotic Eastern land, for example.
I believe that cultural abitudes are important too.
There are many examples of performers who convey emotions in the sound of the performance (even rapid passages), yet who at the same time do not make theatrical faces or exaggerated body movements. My personal favorite is in this regard is Zino Francescatti.
As Ann has implied, the violinist develops a set of entirely technical tools that are applied, largely according to a canon of accepted conventions, to convey emotional content. The extent to which one is successful concatenating them in some logical way throughout the duration of a piece is called violin artistry.
Watching a violist who sways and grimaces, and closing one's eyes is the real test. Can we still hear what we see?
Try the opposite some time. Turn off the sound (or put your fingers in your ears) and just watch the performer. It's an interesting experience.
Let us be not so cynical. The emotional response to a certain music performance should indeed be not tied to theatrics, either live or recorded. It depends on the individual, life experiences, and the artist's affinity with the music being able to be conveyed to a particular audience member. Even the violinist could be able to emotionally move himself/herself as he/she plays; not all grimaces and seemingly extraneous movements are staged/fake, entirely designed to give the false impression of "passion" or "musicality" (though of course not all must be genuine as well.)
vibrato, glissando/portamenteau shifts, rubato, accents, bending the pitch just the right amount in the right direction, spun-tone quality sound, good equipment.
Emotion is expressed in change and contrast.
Adalberto mentioned "life experiences." How does one incorporate "life experiences" into one's playing? This is the kind of warm-and-fuzzy thing that people say all the time because it sounds like it
Perfect timing between a crying facial expression, and a happy face, can certainly be helpful, even if the performer doesn't take it to the level of jumping up and down to express the happy times. ;-)
Paul, if you think cutting your thumb on a can of tomatoes is a profound life experience, don't bother trying to incorporate them.
Adalberto wrote: 'I would rather listen to a piece of music performed by a 54 year old virtuoso than to his/her own rendition when he/she was 14 years old.'
I agree with both Paul and Adalberto..
I agree with Paul. Well said. If I ever get to Blacksburg VA, let's grab a beer.
Tom wrote, "One example that comes to mind is Meditation from Thais. The woman ... ends up going off to be a nun."
I was going to say: It's a rare player who plays Thais like a religious conversion, which is what this scene is in the opera It is
It helps to be a real skinflint if you're going to play Beethoven's
What about the newer "Boris Johnson Is a Lying S*it" by Ben Comeau?
I would assume that in order to properly interpret that one, it would help to be mercilessly bullied at some British boarding school by groups of tousle-haired moppets doing their best Winston Churchill impressions, as they beat you with their cricket bats.
"Playing with feeling"-an easily ridiculed phrase by many it would seem-can be easily learned by the budding young virtuoso. Using these learned musical tools into becoming "playing with feeling+" (with something else that is not mere theatrics to "demonstrate" feelings) takes more experience. Life is generally not long enough at 12.
Sorry, but the OP's question is multi-levelled (anthropological? psychological? ethnomusicological?), and most of my answers would offend.
"I used to hate Hadelich until I heard him on the radio playing Bach. It's not just his injuries that make the visuals dreadful"
My words were injudicious and lacked the right emphasis. "I hate watching him, but the problem is his emoting and stance, rather than his injuries" would have been better. No, still doesn't work. Better still if I had been talking of someone else. I don't hate watching Michael Cleveland.
I'm not exactly easy on the eyes either, LOL. My audience needs eyeshades as well as ear plugs. Gordon, you seem rather fuzzy but less abstract than Paul.
Gordon, it is what it is, I guess!
To put it another way, if Hadelich had no mannerisms, I'd have no problem watching him.
J I, It's good because I'm in a staredown with death. So far I'm winning but death hasn't looked away.
Did you mean emotional or emotive?
"If it's in you, it will find its way out. If it isn't, you can't fake it."
@Paul "Hadelich was mentioned here (but, curiously, not Pine)"
@Ann "Gordon, you seem rather fuzzy"
Sure, but why the long face?
Music is music, not necessarily anything more than that.
Yes, Gordon, I was referring to your little portrait there.
The OP's question was "What makes playing emotional?"
One of the complaints I keep hearing in this forum is that everyone sounds the same these days, whereas violinists of the mid-20th century played with more individual character. If emotive playing originates from life experiences, should we conclude that the latter have likewise been homogenized?
Everyone studied violin with Bron, but they all had completely different ecstatic dance teachers.
Paul D, Hadelich was injured 22 years ago and after that amount of time it fades into the past along with everything else. I had a life changing illness that lasted 10 years and basically set the course of the rest of my life but it also had faded into the past by about 10 years later. You do adjust and it isn't a matter of trying to forget. Life does go on.
Perhaps the question should not be *whether* life experiences are needed or useful in establishing a basis for emotive musical interpretation, but HOW they are incorporated and utilized. By what mechanism does that happen? Perhaps it's my scientific training getting in the way, but often I am skeptical of a phenomenon simply because I cannot see how it works. (If the phenomenon is too complex for me to understand directly, such as subatomic particle physics, I need to know at least that there is a rational basis understood by those with the same basic philosophy of skepticism and better math skills.)
Paul, Thank you, now I'm facing another one and realize that the purpose of the first time was to prepare me for this. I am amazingly at peace and content. I probably won't die but it will be lifechanging.
"By what mechanism does that happen?"
Someone has probably said it by now, but it's people who are emotional, not music or playing. Saying "emotional music" is shorthand for saying "music that makes a person feel emotion".
Hello all! OP here :) I appreciate hearing everyone's thoughts on this topic - it was intentionally broad simply because I think the topic is somewhat intangible. I think the immense amount of recorded music and video'd performances available to modern day instrumentalists has a huge effect on how we perform and interpret emotion from music or performances. That being said, I am still intensely curious about how audiences perceive emotion from performers and how performers seek to transit emotions to the audience (which I realize are two different but related topics). I am also curious to know what people consider to be "emotional music," as that is also an incredibly broad topic with so much being informed by each person's individual preferences. Happy to start this in a new thread or keep this conversation going here.
Not only intangible but verbally inexpressible I'd say. I keep trying but nothing sensible comes out.
Paul, I was thinking about the homogenization of life experiencres. That is exactly what is happening with mass exposure to media such as TV and movies and internet which generally express the LCD of human existence.
Ann, I think there's something to that. Violinists today can listen to dozens of good recordings of the Brahms VC. Heifetz couldn't because there weren't that many. One might say that originality was thrust upon him.
Hey Mr. Valle-Rivera, I appreciate your always-thoughtful expression here. I guess I was hankering for some ranting, so I'm glad you found the humor in it.
Paul, yes we are rather "spoiled". But I imagine Heifetz heard many fellow students practicing and master-classing at a very high level.