Monday, September 24, 2012

The musical pendulum

The state fair will be here soon.  This makes me think of ..... No, not  funnel cakes.... concepts for teaching music!

Think about the ride shown above.  If you're not familiar with this one, it swings from side to side, going higher and higher until, finally, it balances for a moment in the vertical position.

What does this have to do with music?

It reminds me of two things...
1. Musical Freedom
Especially in a piece like the Larsson Concertino, mvt. 1, I love the image of lines that sweep up and linger at the top before swooping back down.  Visualizing something like this ride helps me to play that passage with a more natural flow.

2. Musical Balance
The second is more abstract.  Think of it this way: on one side of the pendulum is artistic flow and total expression.  On the other side is technical accuracy.  Sometimes in lessons a sense a sort of pendulum swing in my comments.  At one point the student is being expressive but not very accurate.  I point out issues with articulation or tuning and, as they focus on making adjustments, they lose their sense of phrasing and musicality.  So, my next comment might swing the pendulum the other way.

What we want is that perfect vertical "hover point" where the technical polish and expression are in balance.

Well, it's not a perfect metaphor but it may prove somewhat helpful.

(here's another one of those rides ...)