Saturday, September 29, 2012

Inside of the Box

Sometimes that's just the right place to be as, for example, when playing the piano.  Inside the box is where all the action takes place.   An on-line discussion is considering the matter of hand position at the piano.  I would be much more concerned with the touch than with hand position.  When the ear is fully absorbed in the strings' vibrations the touch reflects this contact in a highly individualized manner, as if the sound is a living entity.  Perhaps we need to have it clear that some of the sounds we make when we are learning the instrument are not really meant to be listened to.  Then why not practice on a mute keyboard?  As soon as real sound comes into play the more internal artistry of the hand needs to be fully present and responsive.

I have heard too many horror stories from musicians who were told as children that their hand position was all wrong and who therefore gave up on their beloved classical music to go into other fields.

My own story is an ironic twist on the notion of a correct hand position.  In the early 60's Artur Rubinstein played ten different recital programs at Carnegie Hall within the span of forty days.  I went to all ten and sat in the same seat, row B, Center Balcony.  Peering through my opera glasses I observed the stunning sound of his left-hand thumb.  How did he do it?

On returning home, before going to sleep, I imitated the feel of his playing whether or not I could actually play all the notes.  Within those same forty days my technique completely changed; my hand extension increased, my incipient tendonitis vanished.

In subsequent lessons with different coaches my hand position was vociferously frowned upon.  So unorthodox!