Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hearing First

Long ago I read Artur Schnabel's command: "Hear first; then play!"  That I puzzled over this indicates the degree of complexity involved in the notion of hearing first.  Hear what?  How can you hear before there is sound?  What do we hear first?

It is an especially interesting notion when piano playing is involved.  We pianists, no matter where we are or addressing what instrument, hear first our own piano.  Every other instrument is an affront.  (Though I cannot prove this scientifically, I am convinced that this accounts for most of the stage fright that besets players of all ages.  I know it used to upset me terribly to "have to" play my well-prepared lesson on my teacher's first-class Steinway, a piano infinitely superior to my own dinky rented upright.)

Getting used to a new level of pianistic glow and a much expanded range of touch response I am aware of how much anticipatory hearing goes on every time I sit down to play.

Memory plays a large role in advance hearing.  Can we re-direct our advance hearing to avoid entrapment in the "previously heard," which is not at all the same as "hearing first"?

Tonal Refraction provides a means of doing just that, by connecting awareness of the multi-faceted life of tone in our deepest emotional memory to the present nano-moment in which present vitality finds a new connection between the physicality of playing and our inner ongoing life of sound.