practice without emotion, perform without
I am actually looking for the source of this approximate quote that I read some time ago.
The point was that if you practice a piece for pure technical achievement and then add the expression once the technique is mastered, you will likely revert to the deadpan playing of your initial studies during the performance.
My hunch was that it was Milstein - but that now seems unlikely. Anyone know the quote?
I think the theory may be worth another discussion too...
Personally, I try to always practice each section like I'm performing it. I envision the crowd, I think of how I want it to sound.
As I've noted a number of times previously, expression
Just came across
Lydia says expression is technique. I agree entirely, but in my book emotion is something else - not what you express but what you feel. I practise with full expression but relatively little emotion and let it all hang out when I perform.
An emotion is (at least in part) an in-the-moment reaction. We may know how we would like to feel in certain situations, and can practice with that in mind. But how accurately can we "decide" exactly how we are going to emotionally feel and what emotions we are going to project, especially at a planned and prepared-for event such as a musical performance?
Absolutely. The emotion the performers feel is irrelevant, what matters is the emotion they project. It is not true that playing say the Shostakovich quartet number 8 you have to feel desperate. You will just as likely have positive feelings, assuming the performance proceeds well.
I think as a player it helps to be able to make creative decisions in the moment.
Lydia: Your story reminds me of the famous story about Sir Thomas Beecham. A woman at a concert came up to him and said she had a young child whom she wanted to start learning a musical instrument, but that she hated the sound that beginners make. She asked if Beecham could suggest a suitable instrument. Beecham replied, "Yes, the bagpipes, because they sound exactly the same when you've learned how to play them as when you start."
One reason I'm often disappointed by live musical performances is that the performers appear so impassive. No matter how "expressive" the playing may be, unless the players also look like they're emotionally involved I can't get fully involved myself. Then of course there are the strange contortions some performers make to convey the sincere depth of their feelings. Sometimes it's better to close your eyes...
Another name for a professional musician is “interpreter”. I think that resumes what it’s expected.
Repeating myself from an earlier, similar discussion. Emotion is the audience's job. Our job is to provoke that emotional reaction. Fortunately, the composer has done most of the work for us. Maybe major soloists can let themselves go like that, but I have too much to think about while playing.
Joel, yes, we have been here before but I think it bears repetition. I believe that a factor missing from many if not most classical performances is "heart". All too often we're faking it, not really making it.
Thanks for all the responses - it seems my quote is an obscure one though if you guys can not identify it. I must have read it in a book (which is one clue I guess).
It's exactly the same as acting. You figure out what the emotional content is, and you figure out how to infuse your expression of the work with that emotion.
If music is a language, as my teacher taught me, it is the language of emotion. Music and emotion are one-in-the-same. That being said there are lots of Etudes that aren't emotional and that begs the question - are they really music or just technical skill builders?
Subjectively, it seems to me that one element of emotion is a vocal sense, a sense of voice. And that is one characteristic that bowed string instruments (the violin, viola, and cello) have in common. More than any other musical instruments, they have a vocal quality similar to the human voice.
I think "emotion" in the OP's title can be interpreted in (at least) two different ways - expression or passion? Expression is what the player uses to convey emotions implicit in the music, and if not emotions then the shape of phrases and the emphases employed in everyday speech; passion, on the other hand, reflects how the player personally responds to the music and the circumstances of performance. I'd say yes, all practice should be done with expression but save the passion for the performance.
I think that what Mr. Buri said is true to many personality types, but no so much others.
I somewhat disagree about technique and expression being one and the same. Many musicians may not be very technically proficient in playing their instrument (or instruments) but can still find ways to express themselves in a very original and creative way. For example Paul McCartney may not be as technically proficient a singer, guitarist, and keyboardist compared to some of his peers in rock, jazz, etc. But he's a genius in terms of writing songs that convey a wide range of emotions from joy, anger, ecstasy, to amusement. He may not a great bass guitarist in terms of playing scales and arpeggios but his bass lines are still somewhat complex and very original.
Great stuff here open for clarification. Need the sharpest mind to untangle it--like Roger Scruton's.
Sometimes "sloppiness" is part of the music. However it is often not the case in Classical. Sloppiness is acceptable depending on your level of play, and you can be incredibly musical and expressive even with imperfect technical means. I am actually on your side on this, just that it is not apples to apples when comparing McCartney to musicians who only play classical for a living. He plays his own music, which is not virtuoso repertoire, *nor needs to be*. Both are music and valid, but one needs not to be utterly, technically perfect-especially live-while the other traditionally expects perfection-especially from and after the 20th century.
"Perhaps"?! The day I feel no emotions while playing is the day I'll pack it in.
You don't have to play technically perfectly to play expressively.
Lydia, I don't think your "have to have" and "got to have" (technical command) was meant to imply that technical deficiency should prevent a player from being emotionally committed. If you haven't got it, fake it.
I once said to a delightful young student that in one passage I could see her feelings but not hear them. Then we examined the technical means of expressing them in sound.
They can all play but they won't PLAY!
Tutti sections are not soloists: they
I hope I'm being fair and understanding to the thoughtful responses on this discussion of emotion in practice and playing. Obviously, this is a complex and subtle subject, and arriving at a definitive understanding is unlikely. But I think it may be helpful to try to categorize one's focus on the varied factors.
Adrian - I guess I'm still not making myself clear. I'm not talking about expression but involvement, energy, passion. If the artistry is less than exquisite this is what will excite an audience.
In my experience amateurs who play with "thrilling commitment" often play loud, too loud. It requires a conductor or coach to channel the commitment and translate it into audible musical results. A conductor I remember used to say "it is not sports".
Albrecht, I can see I'm in a minority of one but will put in one last plea. In amateur orchestras there is a collective fear of "standing out" which is only in danger of becoming a reality when the rest of the section is playing like mice. In my view each violinist should play with the same musical energy as if they were alone on the platform or in a chamber group, fortissimo when the music says and likewise pianissimo. Only then would the section balance with the weight of the woodwind and brass who don't suffer from the same inhibitions as we do.
Explained with details like this I largely agree. I'd add one point though: there is a second fear in amateur orchestras: to make an error that ruins the performance for everyone. "Better play like a mouse than risking that."
Playing in an orchestral tutti "with the same musical energy as if they were alone on the platform or in a chamber group" is hardly respectful of our colleagues, the conductor, the audience, or the composer!
What's the problem? Orchestral music is chamber music writ large - we aren't just an extension of the conductor's baton but active contributors to a collective work of musical recreation. Sure, I'll play less loudly if asked.
I play string quartets with three "ladies of a certain age," and it's all I can do to keep up, even when I've practiced my parts for a week and they just show up and play.
In talking about projecting "passion" and "emotion" in performing, can that "emotion" include something that is (shall we say) amorous or spicy?
Netrebko is always wonderful and for me her singing always survives on recordings - but I see not at all what the dance performance does for the song. I fail to understand how she can do all that and sing that way too.
As a soloist, I play how I want. In a string quartet, we are four soloists who dialogue and unite. In an orchestral section of two violins, one of us leads, the other blends, or the result is a mess. In a section of ten violins, we all blend to create that magical, velvety unison. The conductor creates the "expression".
To try and answer Elise's question (!) I practice "technique" to concentrate on quality (intonation, tone, articulation, dynamics etc.)
Adrian - I think you're arguing against my phrase "the same musical energy" that I believe we should apply to solo, chamber and orchestral playing. What I meant to imply was "as much" musical energy, which can be expended in various ways. Put simply, don't let your concentration lapse when your notes aren't very interesting. This debate has got way too philosophical!
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