11 February 2011

Music lessons

'Technically accurate' is not necessarily moving or life-changing. The soul of a piece is in the living responsiveness between music and musician. A piece can be played technically perfectly with or without soul, but I think music more often comes alive when the dynamics and tempo are an extension of the unification of musician and instrument, breathing together, rather than repetition of fixed writing on a page.

Sometimes, you have to focus on the mechanics and technicalities, and the result is moving not because it moved you but because others were moved by the power of the product of your focus, and the satisfaction of seeing they've experienced something is rewarding. Sometimes, to fully impact others, you have to lose yourself in the process and stop focusing on your own experience.

There is energy in a well-played pause. There's incredible beauty and ecstasy in the tension created by well-placed pauses and contrasting dynamics, much more so than if you just steadily crescendo, increasing volume and speed until climax. It's often in those pauses, tension, or restraint--especially when combined with almost frighteningly on-the-verge-of-losing-control intensity--that you tune into each note or chord along the way and find a more complete, resonant whole.

It's not like riding a bike: it takes increasing discipline to keep it alive. Performing the same piece over and over requires constant attention to rhythm and dynamics, playing it every time like it's the first and last performance you will ever give.

There's something to be savored in the minor chords and dissonance. Something ultimately uplifting in the evocation of hidden, resonant tones longing for release, and in the way the very existence of the minor often seems to be exactly what makes the major worthwhile.

There are times to set aside the exacting techniques you've learned are required. There are some pieces which demand different styles than the specific, formal techniques in order to be performed correctly or with any impact. In some cases, the correct technique is to purposefully defy certain rules. For example, African choral music never sounds right when performed by BYU choirs; they don't seem to understand this.

Sometimes, if you just listen carefully and tune your ears to the music around you, you ultimately play better. When you rejoin the chorus with more focus on harmony, you blend for a richer, more beautiful sound. You can't make anyone else do this. It's up to each person.

By quieting yourself entirely and only listening, letting the music resonate and fill you, or playing something which feels like a release of what you're feeling, thoughts quiet into pure feeling, which can be instructive, releasing, and healing.

There are probably more, but I was just thinking about how many of the principles I learned in piano playing and in jazz choir performance apply to various aspects of life in general. True principles are all around us. A joy of life is learning how and where to apply them in daily life.

4 comments:

this blog author said...

For exactly all of the reasons about which you wrote do I love Liszt and especially "Consolation". It was his putting chords and notes together that were completely unexpected that have moved me greatly.

What exactly do you do for a living? Are you a concert musician? Attorney? Professional photographer? You have MANY interests and parts to you, don't you? Those are what you make the interesting soul that you are.

happy day!

Original Mohomie said...

tba, I'll have to listen to that. As for my work, I've mostly worked in administrative support and customer service, actually. Everything else is interests and hobbies...I'm considering focusing my interests into something careerable... :-)

favoritenic said...

Some of my favorite music(al) quotes which echo your post:

"The more I live the life of music the more I am convinced that it is the freely imaginative mind that is at the core of all vital music making." --Aaron Copland

"When I open my eyes I must sigh, for what I see is contrary to my religion, and I must despise the world which does not know that music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy."
-- Ludwig van Beethoven

"Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art." --Frederic Chopin

Original Mohomie said...

Nic, I thought you might appreciate this post. :-) Thanks for the quotes. Ah, Chopin: we talked about him.