Monday, December 16, 2013

The Grand Experiment: Freeing the Ear from Visual Interpretation

In the process of writing up my teaching career as an experiment, I realize it is just that.  I set out in the late 60's to demonstrate that Viktor Zuckerkandl (Sound and Symbol) was right to observe that no training whatsoever was required to discern the sense of a piece of music; rather that musical logic was an almost universal aspect of human nature.

I found this such an amazing notion that I realized it could provide the basis for a fascinated and fascinating life as a teacher, and set about freeing my ear from reliance on the printed score.  This proved extremely difficult.

But the rewards have been huge.

It required that I listen not for notes but for the movement between the notes, which is where Zuckerkandl concluded musical sense lies.  What a difference it makes.  Instead of faulty intonation on the part of the violinists in the non-competitive amateur chamber music program I originated at Mannes, I gained insight into the way composition actually works, and discovered things completely invisible to the pre-educated (literally pre-judiced) eye.

When I recommend this as a technique to professionals they report back to me that it is extremely difficult.  I know; it took me years.