Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Notes for practical theory

Ok, I don't know how much sense these are going to make, they were just my notes based on the questions we were told to prepare for this exam. We have been working through chapters from David Blum's Casals and the art of interpretation, and Barry Green's The Mastery of music. This is a bit of summarising, the questions we had to prepare, and a few of my own comments. I will continue to post my study notes like this, just so that I have a backup of them, but if anyone finds them interesting or useful, please feel free to comment.

Essays for practical exam, November 2004

Discuss Cassals’ first principle (12 min, 10%)
Lotte Lehmann defines the art of interpretation as the “individual understanding and reproduction,” and while this seems too general a description to really categorise what David Blum calls “the first principle,” it appears to deal with many of the same issues.

Breath motion. Breathing gives phrasing. Life-giving, finding what the music wants to do naturally. Making the music meaningful, finding what the music wants

Discuss Cassals’ natural rules (48 min, 40%)

Variety: a succession of rainbows, both in shape, and graduation of colour. Ebb and flow.
The dynamic follows the contour. Up=more, down=less
Generally, a long note means cresc, or dim. “a note has to say something”
Repetition = contrast.
Dynamics are flexible and relative

Discuss the four motivating factors for preparing for an exam or performance (1 hour, 50%)

The desire to perform great music, to do the music and composer justice, and to give our audiences the pleasure of great music played well should ultimately underlie all music-making experiences. Unfortunately, however, this internal motivation is not always present to encourage one to practice well. Instead, therefore, one often has to rely on other motivating factors to encourage effective and regular rehearsal.
Competition can act as effective motivation for performers to practice, as it can provide a broad based standard against which to measure one’s progress, and encourage one to persevere and aim to excel. Encouraging competition between performers in a group, or between specific groups within a larger group (such as voice groups in a choir) can build a healthy desire to excel, and can keep the performers on their toes. On the other hand, however, competition can create animosity between members of a group which should be working together, or can take the focus off musical integrity, and place it instead on individual prestige. Furthermore, some people find competition demotivating, as they may never feel adequate, and prefer to measure their performance against their own previous performances. On the other hand, some people become so driven to compete that they become demotivated when the competition is removed, and may well lose sight of the original purpose of performing beautiful music. This unhealthy competitive urge can even diminish the performer’s capacity for emotionally genuine performance, as virtuosity and technical efficiency overshadow intention and artistry. None the less, competition, when used sparingly, and with discression, can be a valuable motivation.
Frequent required performances can be an excellent motivation to practice, as they give one specific goals with a timeframe to encourage frequent and effective practice. The less time one has to practice, the more efficiently one has to use what practice time one has. Furthermore, when a performance is impending, fear, pride, or anticipation will often encourage one to practice frequently, while the habit of performing can diminish performance anxiety, thus acting as general encouragement to a student who may otherwise be discouraged from performing, or even pursuing music.
The next two motivating factors, pride and fear are closely linked to the former two. Performers who have a standard to live up to are frequently motivated by pride to maintain it, while others may be motivated by fear of embarrassment to prepare thoroughly. The driving force behind competition or preparation for required performances is usually the desire not to embarrass onself, whether motivated by fear, or pride.
Once again, however, both factors can prove as debilitating as motivating. A timid performer excessively plagued by fear may find performance nearly impossible, and may be discouraged from pursuing a musical education for precisely this reason. In a case like this, regular required performances could be demotivating. Excessive pride, however, could lead a performer to become overly competitive, as mentioned before, and could diminish the natural motivation to perform good music well for its own sake.
In general, all external motivating factors should be used with discression, in order to encourage sincere, high quality performance.

Practice accuracy. Plan in order to achieve an accurate first play-through. Play slowly enough to avoid mistakes, and increase the tempo gradually only when the piece is secure at the slower tempo.
Competition: accountability and incentive. Someone or something to measure yourself against.
Required performance: motivation to practice happens instinctively

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