Monday, August 09, 2010

4 - Marcel Moyse - Pearls from the Master

This is the final set of notes from Jerrold Pritchard's class at Brattleboro in 1977 with flute legend, Marcel Moyse.
Please enjoy! And huge thanks to Mr. Pritchard for his generosity and sharing.
What wonderful information and the additional notes are so valuable!
Scroll down to bottom to find links to all the notes in pdf.

On phrasing and expression:

You must find the form and shape before you can play a melody expressively. In Bach, the fundamental melody notes must sing with colour. Find the hidden chord tones and the movement of the line toward the resolution of the dissonance.

J. Pritchard writes: As you have noted Jen in previous discussions on "outlining", this is critical and so difficult to explain and work on with younger students who have no sense of the harmonies, the balance of consonance and dissonance, the different in feeling and impact of an upbeat and a downbeat, or the subtleties of type of accentuation (a legato dash with a vibrato vs. a biting, dry short staccato vs. a sudden loud booming accent vs. a bell stroke with sudden release of the air and a quick diminuendo.
The whole issue of the foreground vs. the background; the skeleton vs. the body, and the shadow vs. the substance is a very complicated business to explain. With less advanced students it often is best to just ask them to play the fundamental melody notes and the important connecting passing notes as a means of simplifying the texture and the technical problems and letting the "grund" and the "ursatz" differentiate themselves natural by building up the layers of complexity bit by bit.

Pickups and connecting notes of a phrase are like articles and prepositions.

J. Pritchard writes: This is a reference to the logical structure of most musical phrases in the common practice period of Western music from 1600-1900. What is "Classic " about Classical music is its universality, the commonality of a unifying language. The rhetoric of a music phrase or structure is something like our native tongue, which we have absorbed automatically by constant hearing and practice in listening , if not in speaking/playing it.
On a larger scale even most listeners with little or no knowledge of harmony or musical form can easily determine just by the " feeling" whether a section of a symphony or a sonata is

1) the statement of an idea/motive

2) a repetition or minor variation of an idea

3) a transition section that is moving to another key or musical idea

4) a waiting section that is prolonging the end of the section or resolving to a major cadence

5) a closing section that is propelling the section to an end.

Hearing and understanding what is going on in a developmental section is a bit trickier but most student i have had in my music appreciation/intro to music classes have fairly quickly learned to intuitive feel when a section is unstable, changing, and fragmenting musical elements that have come before or overlap, answer or echo as in a fugal section.

I suspect Moyse really meant, or should have said, here "conjunction" and "preposition" and perhaps adverb", because they usually don't exist by themselves; they are dependent on the context and the nouns and verbs which they direct attention to.

Example: An eighth note "pick up gesture is rather like saying: "And (prep) Then (adverb) We (subject) Ate (verb) The (article) Apple (noun object).

The big building blocks that convey most of the meaning of a sentence are, of course the nouns and verbs-- the subject-verb(action)-object (We-Ate-Apple) give much of the meaning of the sentence. (This is the dominant grammatical structure in the large majority of language world -wide, though in some languages the sequence of these elements doesn't have this order or consistency. )

Of course, musical language is not identical with speech, but has many of the same organizational principles--at least in the western tradition of folk music and instrumental music.

Atmosphere: feel the mood.

J. Pritchard writes: This is the most elusive concept, the most personal and most interpretive element. Learning to correctly (or logically) and/or compellingly intuit the emotional content of a phrase or piece of music is the most open to individuality--and the most essential in establishing a convincing performance, especially of romantic music with either obvious or hidden extra-musical elements.

Be still inside so emotion can come to you.

J. Prichard writes:This one of the most difficult things in "Life", not just in Music. Taking time to reflect, to breathe, to relax the body and open the mind is something we all need to do more. Trying to superimpose an artificial sentiment is equally dysfunctional in expressing yourself to another person in words or in music. It also is essential that you have found your true feelings and not just portraying what is expected socially or in the situation.

There is value in simplicity and the closeness of the familiar. “my mother is not president, but i prefer her.”

J. Pritchard writes: Again, exaggeration for effect. Also this is placing a value on playing what you know instinctually, have absorbed over time, or have enough experience with to make an accurate judgment about.

Reichert is not Mozart, but should be played melodically with expression.
J. Pritchard writes: Reichert was not as fine or profound a composer as Mozart, but his music still needs to be treated with respect and played as accurately and musically as you can. Playing Reichert's little technical studies and daily routines with attention to musicality, phrasing and expression will yield the best results in improvement of your flute playing.
Moyse really did not want you to "add" expression to the music. He believed very strongly that you, as a performer, had to find the treasure buried there on the page by the composer, to be true to the composer's intentions, to feel the music inside you based on what was written, and have the understanding and control to bring out those latent characteristics and make the musical gestures come back to life. (Rather like the concept that the figure is already within the block of marble and the sculptor must find the way to reveal it in its best form and with clarity.)

The last section of Moyse' tone study book, "De la Sonorite", contains a number of passages from the works of great composers. Some of these seem rather austere and difficult to make come to life and sing.

Moyse's method is to play each of these selections six times:

--Twice with no change in tempo, dynamics, or nuance of color or vibrato, with focus on good pitch, correct rhythms, and focus of tone. Just establishing the "bones" of the music.

--Twice with dynamics added where the composer indicates or following basic musical principles of phrasing and direction of the musical line. Giving the music flesh and muscle.

--Twice more with judicious use of vibrato and tone color change to bring out the inherent mood of the piece. Providing clothing to make it less naked.
By the end of these repetitions, you invariably have more control and a much deeper, richer understanding of the potential musicality found there in each passage. You have given your mind the opportunity and the leisure to find the kernel of music in each phrase and the luxury of knowing that any interpretive element you have used is done after consideration and with good judgment.

The style of rhythms changes from piece to piece. A dotted eighth and sixteenth in the opening of the “Marseilles” is different from that in Massenet’s “Elegie.”

J. Prichard writes:This again deals with the context and style and intent of a piece. The composer gives many clues with descriptive language they add to the music. Still, it takes a good deal of listening, playing and experiencing various style of music and the common gestures of each to make a good solid and appropriate interpretation of how to play a dotted eighth and sixteen note--and even then we may be fooled as often (as in Handel and 18th century French music) this may be played with the 16th very close to the next downbeat as "double-dotted".

Like singers and violinists, we must stress and bring out the important notes of a phrase, or pattern, or figure.

J. Prichard writes:A fairly self-evident statement, but one often overlooked by less advanced and experienced performers. It takes a good deal of knowledge of style periods, composer, forms, and the rhetoric of music to be able to do the careful analysis to determine just what is most "important" in a passage.
A story of a reading session and a conversation about Chopin with two famous composers:
Ravel demanded strict rhythmic interpretation; Arthur Rubinstein was free, but he landed on his feet smoothly. It is difficult was to decide who is right—I will ask Chopin when I get to heaven! This is very interesting to me, because Moyse usually had very clear notions of what "he" wanted to emphasize or bring out in a piece. He usually tried to get you to play just what was written and believed the composer's notation was his words on the subject.
Another amusing story he told in the class was of an "dream" he had in which he got to heaven and Debussy or Poulenc or important composer said : "Moyse, Vey you let zeez students play my music like zeez? (--incorrectly, that is.) He didn't want to have to face those kind of questions when he reached the pearly gates.

Some rules can be inferred:

1) look for the line direction
2) develop the line to the high point and
3) savor the climax.

Another focus on the rhetoric and logical organization of most music. He points us to the more
obvious clues. What has the most meaning to me is the word "savor" and the advice to enjoy the most poignant/beautiful/intense and/or most impressive or important point in the phrase. [Rather like working hard to pedal your bicycle to the top of the long, steep hill; you don't want to quickly roar down the other side without stopping to observe and enjoy the view.]

Play with a walking style. Place the feet on the beat to emphasize the natural pulse.

J. Prichard writes: Like the earlier comment on "dancing", Moyse wanted the natural and instinctual aspects of lifeto be used. We all have a regular rhythmic guide in the beating of our heart. Until the metronome was invented much music relied on the heartbeat to determine the pace of the music, or multiples or proportions a beat. If our heart beats 60-72 beats per minute when at rest, a calm mood is established in the music with this flow of the pulses. As we get more agitated the heart speeds up, and so should the music. (Of course, we have do this when the music dictates the change in speed—not from nervousness, or personal agitation and panic.)

Phrasing is movement. Life comes from the direction of the line.

J. Pritchard adds: Essentially he is saying, “Don't let the music be static and all with same in emphasis or dynamic.” Variety, change and movement is what makes Life (and Music) interesting. You have to “follow your bliss” and go where life takes you--and control it with reason (and emotion)… if you can.

Debussy said: 'Look for the expression between the notes.'

J. Prichard writes: It is how we connect two notes that gives a good deal of the stylistic information to the listener. As flutists, we need to play equal attention to the space between notes and the manner in which they are connected with sound, color, emphasis, smoothness or disjunct-ness. We often need to imitate the quality of the human voice, which is very supple and elegant in the way a singer does a wide leap with "portamento" or even a kind of glissando effect. (The Latin root of the word is "portare" or "to carry" the sound. In French it is "port de voix" from " portour". [A person at a train station who carries your bags or the person who opens a door for you to make the transition from inside to outside also is called a "porter."]

READ MORE: Pearls of the Master Parts 1-3 blogposts.

Part 1: Marcel Moyse on Flute Tone & links to Moyse's online free mp3 recordings.

Part 2: 24 Petite Edudes Melodiques & mp3 of Cluff-Pritchard discussion on studying with Moyse.

Part 3: Marcel Moyse speaking on Flute Technique with notes by Jerrold Pritchard.

PRINT: Marcel Moyse Brattleboro study notes in pdf .

The 24 LIttle Melodic Studies notes.

Marcel Moyse on Tone, Technique, Phrasing and Expression for Flutists.

All the best,