Monday, February 15, 2010

I used to think metronomes were a bad idea. I found them tyrannical, impossibly mechanical, hateful little objects. I couldn't keep a steady beat when I was young--but I was blissfully unaware of that until that nasty little machine made me painfully aware of my inability to do anything about it.

Since then I have learned to play games with metronomes. Each of us has a kind of internal "ticker," some faster than others. I encourage young students to use the metronome to become aware of their internal ticker. Is their natural tempo fast? Then the metronome can help give them an alternative to slow down. The important thing is to have awareness; from awareness comes control.

This is increasingly important in an era of rapid everything. Nothing seems to be quick enough to satisfy our craving for speed.

How about trying on a vibration? See how long you can sustain interest in a single tone.

When Henry Purcell set the text "Music for a while shall all our cares beguile" the word "music" is sung on a single pitch. In fact it is sung twice: first time on G, second time a fifth higher. And very deliberately.