Chamber Music and Body Language
I have to admit that I move when I play, especially during chamber music playing. I can't help it and it just brings music out of me more. It seems to be supported by research. As Noa Kageyama has shown us in his “Why Being a Great Ensemble Player May Require More than Just Our Ears”
, to play chamber music well we need to both listen to each other and watch each other. Comments?
Just 2 days ago I gave a lesson on Sibelius concerto to a student preparing for grad school auditions. She was getting tied up both musically and technically in her quest for perfection. I had noticed that when she was playing in a string quartet (2nd violin) she showed excellent leadership ability. So, I suggested that she lead herself as she played through the concerto. Bingo! All the sudden she was playing expressively and much more accurately. The difference was quite amazing.
I'm no expert but I've seen and read debates about moving when playing. I think just as long as it does not become distracting then it's fine. I would think some amount of movement is necessary in chamber or when you are a principal player.
This is something I have thought about a lot, and I have always wondered if anyone had studied it extensively. I wonder if the movement and eye contact serve the same purposes as they do in non-musical socializing.
A player's movement can express the music, or it can be an ill-applied release of tension.
Why not? I can't help being moved by the music. To be totally still is not natural. I am an amateur player and playing chamber music is largely for players' own enjoyment, as Lydia rightly pointed out in the other thread. Distraction to audience if occurs in rare occasions is easily outweighed by the joy of freeing myself into the music making and communication within the chamber group.
In a lesson with Ivan Galamian he said, "99% of the audience look, only 1% listen."
I can find performer motion can be highly distracting and it may be one reason I usually keep my eyes closed when attending concerts unless I actually want to observe some technical details.
So the studies that Noa Kageyama's article referred to have shown:
I belong to both a string quartet and piano trio, and I'm renowned for moving my body to the music. (maybe a bit too much!) Sure, it does help with leadership and creating that special "ensemble sound", but I think if you move around excessively, it is detrimental as the audience is drawn to body movements rather than the actual music. (What I need to learn ahahaha)
I think you should try to match whatever your ensemble is doing to some extent.
My daughter and I have had some pro coaching at summer camps with string quartets (no, we don't play in the same quartet) and invariably the coaches are trying to get the students to move more, mostly to lead one another for entrances, dynamics, and the like. Affectation, however, is not helpful. But when you have a violinist as wild and crazy as Geoff Nuttall, I guess anything is possible. I have seen SLSQ in performance and they're incredible. I don't recall Nuttall coming completely out of his seat but I think both his feet do come off the floor with some regularity.
There is only so much that can be communicated with the eyes when reading a page and interacting with several musicians in different locations. Additionally, a down beat is often not enough to communicate the rest of time, dynamic change, articulation, etc that often comes between the beats. Not to move in order to synchronize a group is to ignore this type of subject matter that must be communicated.
"On the other hand look at Leonid Kogan. He's not dancing all over the stage."
On the other hand, Lindsay Stirling (sp?) is kind of cute jumping around in those YouTube videos and she sure is selling a lot of books to kids. That said, I hope that nobody’s seeing any of those kids doing that sort of thing in recitals.;-)
Sometimes I think we tend to miss the point when we see players doing things that we are taught not to do (don't move, don't hold the violin too high or too low, don't hold the bow this way or that way, don't play with straight pinky...) and start to think something is wrong with what they are doing. Yet, we keep seeing top soloists/chamber musicians who have broken all the rules still sound great. What can we say about that? Yes, we should follow all the good rules, but considering each individual is different, we should also be okay to let people just work with their own unique physiology and music instinct. For me, whatever works as long as we can play well.
If movement is organic, fine. You just have to wonder, sometimes, how much of it is pure affectation. Geoff Nuttall is a brilliant violinist. He can easily play Haydn Op. 20 without all the histrionics. On the other hand, when he played here in Blacksburg, you heard people talking afterward how wonderful they played and how exciting it was and -- this is for real -- how it wasn't boring like classical music usually is.
Sort of like Pinchas’s relaxed almost bored looking affect or Heifetz’s ‘cold’ stance as they play some of the most emotionally effective music we’ve heard.
If you only react to what you hear, you will be late! Pre-listening usually has to be accompanied by pre-motion
Adrian, this is true. I have always found it frustrating when conductors ask you to follow behind your section leader. In the better groups, it doesn't work like that. Everyone is one big organism.
Body movement during playing is as natural as breathing, and chamber players get visual cues from one another, which is an essential part of intimate, multi-way communication. As long as it is not excessive enough to be distracting to players or audience, I don't see any problem at all.
Regarding movement, I tell my students, "I'm okay with it as long as you don't make your bow play tag with your instrument." :)
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