Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Get excited about music

Dear Flutists,

Fall is coming and with the first breath of autumn air, comes a need for new excitement for music!
So watch the bow hairs fly in this video! Flutists should be THIS thrilling. How can it be done?
All I know is that the musical excitement is very catching! And September is just around the corner.


Martha Argerich, Mischa Maisky, Joshua Bell, Henning Kraggerud, Yuri Bashmet in Shostakovich:

For pedagogical interest: Video
Yehudi Menuhin - On the cirular motions of the hands in violin playing:

Note: Menhuin's injuries to the arms, leading to these comments of his, are discussed here.

Happy days!
Best, Jen

Comment from subscriber:

What a great and exciting performance of the Shostakovich Quintet.! Thanks for sharing it. Those players are so "into" the music, and the technique is secondary or even in third or fourth place to the expression of the music, their interaction with the other members, and the sheer joy in music making.

Alas, I fear the flute will never be able to reach that level of brilliance, excitement, intensity, sharp, clean articulation, incisive attacks, dynamic change, and blend of tone. We will just have to do what we do best which is making a light, flutey sound with a myriad of shadings of color, using vibrato and resonance to draw attention to our part, and play with as much shaping of the line with intensity and dynamics as we can muster....and yet the flute will never compete with the strings or piano in terms of bigness and richness of sound.

I really like the eccentric video of Menuhin. His idea of the circular interaction of the fingers, vibrato and bow got me thinking about how this might apply to the flute. I think there might be a similar effect going on between the flow of the air through the larynx/glottis/ vocal folds and the opening and closing and constriction of the air stream and the change in air pressure caused by the vibrato AND the resistance of the aperture that causes some "bounce back" of the air into the throat and nasal cavities, where it is again re-cycled and propelled forward by the constant pressure of the air flow. The action of the tongue in repeated articulation also can be involved in this circle of air flow, especially in double tonguing.

Anyway, thinking about this cyclic process helped me open my throat, relax the tension on the vibrato mechanism, and let the air flow with pulses that were faster, freer and had more color. Need to work on this. It sure worked for a few moments at a time; will continue to develop with work, I'm sure.
Thanks for you great posts on your blog and on the chat groups. P.

Dear P.
Thanks so much for your comments.
The circular motion is actually in all body motion, I find, and helps relieve tension. Flutist's wrists and arms are often so static that they require almost invisibly small circular rotation to undo unecessary tensions. Great natural players usually make these small circles without knowing it. However, in relaxing an overly-tense player, or a flutist with arm or wrist pain, small circular motions really are key to the release of habitual tensions. I've been into this since Abby Whiteside's book on piano player's torsos as the hub of the circular arm-wheel, and other great instrumental teachers who've used rotation as a gentle way of releasing static "holding". Indeed, thinking of the fingers as pistons that only go up and down causes mis-programming of muscle use.
Appreciate all the comments I get; especially with these great details and specifics.
Thanks for writing.
Comments (2)
Blogger JudyNV said...

Loved the excitement and enthusiasm of the quintet playing Shostakovich as well as the comments about circular nature of music (and circular technique when performing music). The two together put me in mind of the old Tommy Dorsey hit: The Music Goes Round and Round. The words to that song (after the first minute) are a hoot."

Thursday, August 26, 2010 2:41:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks Judy for your comment.

Since recent science is working on why our brains generate patterns of music, this is all starting to make sense.

We just have to remember that when we're moving our body parts to recreate our brain music, those joints are happiest if they run in a circular motion.
(quotin' the oldies - life is like a little boat upon the sea---why does this terrible music get stuck in my head? hahahah.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010 4:09:00 PM


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