Saturday, September 6, 2014

Listening to Yourself

If this were easy everyone would do it.  So why is it so hard?

Reason #1: Children are usually more aware of someone else's ear listening when they do whatever they do with music, whether singing or playing an instrument.    Along with that someone else's ear goes judgment: right or wrong, in or out of tune.

#2:  Respect must be granted to the power of every single sound to evoke its own response.   Tones do not somehow level out to turn into compositions; it is quite the other way around:  the impact of single sounds expands out to turn into composition.

I watched this happen today with a piece by Bela Bartok, a master at turning the simplest sounds into complex musical arguments within a single page.  The student made one mistake after another until I asked him to exaggerate his "take" on particular sounds: Bring out the ones you find strong and subdue the others guiding your balance on four levels: strong, less strong, sort of weak, weak.

The result was fascinating.  What he thought he was doing was not what I heard, yet his errors disappeared and the composition came alive. 

Moral of that particular story:  There are so many ways to pronounce one's responses to sound: touch, dynamics, timing, to name but three.  What the player intends and what the listener hears may or may not match, but what does match in any case is the intensionality that matches the composer's work.