Saturday, January 31, 2015

Body / Piano Playing : A Real Connection

One of my favorite students is an innovative scientist who has never been tempted to ignore the powerful drive to have music in her life.

Today she was working on the beginning of a Beethoven slow movement.  It is a privilege to work with someone whose sense of detail is so cultivated that she can appreciate the connection between this small step and that dynamic result.

It was a matter of overcoming anxiety about playing wrong notes: a familiar problem.

The hint very often lies in feeling the connection between the hand and the keyboard.  We tend to forget that the hand came first and approach the keyboard as a foreign object, whereas it is really the other way around.  The fifth is beautifully expressed by the five fingers in closed position.  Extending that reach ever so slightly to produce a sixth can be an utterly expressive gesture, in fact, an extension very like what a fine dancer executes to command our attention.

Treated mechanically the sixth is not expressive at all.  It was beautiful to hear what happened when notes stopped being notes and became actual physical gestures which, like fine choreography, conveyed real feeling.