Friday, October 1, 2010

This is my favorite blog post!

Lesson went fine, I guess. No time spent on tone exercises, and not much on scales, so my sound was either okay, or hopeless. For the etude, Milde 4, I tried to really charge into it with energy, hoping that the time I've put in (has it been 3 weeks?) was enough to get me through it with some cleanness and at speed. And it wasn't clean, but it was faster than the rather relaxed tempo I'd chosen last week. After I was done, M picked apart my phrasing, intonation etc. I was able to fix things, but I noticed that I wasn't doing the fixing at the same speed as I'd played it. Then it was on to the solo work, and he didn't want to hear the opening of Mozart again, instead starting on the last passage before the development, just after the first trilly part. Which was kind of too bad, since I had spent all my time practicing the opening, and didn't have the notes under control for this part at all, especially the long squirrely bit before the big cadence and high G trill. Still, we got some good work done.

The squirrely bit starting a m. 67 (John Miller calls it the melismatic section in his master class the concerto) is nasty for me, fingerwise, and always has been, back to when I first saw it in junior high. I'd been putting off practicing it, so that I could clean up the opening. I'm reminded, though, of a blog post I read not long ago, with a piece of psychological advice for handling surprise audition excerpts: whatever they hand you, say to yourself, "This is my favorite excerpt!". Enthusiasm is contagious, and your thoughts affect you. Positive thinking is hard, especially in domains which are dominated by trying to avoid failure, so you spend your time thinking about mistakes and avoiding them. Positive thinking is hard, and needs to be practiced too, but it's absolutely essential. I think it works, too. When later, I looked at that bit while practicing, I caught myself hesitating, stopped, thought "This is my favorite part!" (the exclamation point is important), and really, it helped.

There's another school of thought which holds that the student should come to the lesson with the notes prepared, so that they can then learn the art of music at the feet of the master. I certainly thought about that, when confronted with a section of the piece that I'd explicitly *not* prepared. But I think this is wrong. I've been well convinced by a book (The Perfect Wrong Note) that musicality and vivacity is not some kind of surface glitter, that you can sprinkle on the piece at the end once the solid but dull framework of 100% perfect notes has been painstakingly constructed. No, musical life has to be there the whole time. Every scale. Every slow long tone. Every pitch exercise. Every first reading, and slow laborious woodshedding. The thing is, the musicality comes from microdetails like pitch, intensity, timing variations, inflections, and if you've practiced the notes 100 times without thinking about or trying to feel those details, you've simply locked them in wrong. So, make beautiful music, at every point, even if it's full of "mistakes". And, the thing is, learn to accept mistakes, because even later, it'll still be full of mistakes, although the number and type of mistakes may change. It'll always be full of things that could have been better. And it can still be beautiful music all the same. (Or so I'm trying to convince myself.)

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