Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Encoding habits (aka Raised by Wolves)

A private student of mine (11th grader) asked if he can start working on excerpts next year.  I have mixed feelings about this.

Think about these two statements:

#1 If your technique is solid 
and you know exactly how you want it to sound, 
most excerpts aren't that difficult.

#2 The habits you build 
with any passage, good or bad, 
get encoded into that passage for a long time.

   So, if a high school player starts working on these excerpts without solid technique and possibly not a clear concept of "how it goes" musically, they will probably struggle with the excerpt.

   Furthermore, if they learn that excerpt with bad habits, they can pull out the same music years later and BOOM those old bad habits are right there!  It's as if the bad habits are literally encoded into the music.

But, if that's true for bad habits, shouldn't it also be true for good habits?

   So, let's take one excerpt, The Ride, and one stubborn problem, The Rhythm.  Instead of crashing on it and then having to slow down, what if you did the slow version first?

Here's the assignment I gave him...write it out in 3/4 time and spend some time (a year?) just playing it that way.

Like this:

   Suppose he had never even heard the original version..you know the usual story: raised by a pack of wolves and this was the "pack song," etc.  So he spends the formative years of his life playing this over and over, always with accurate rhythm.

   Then, one day the wolf king returns him to the humans (he was starting to look too delicious) and he discovers that they also play trombone and have this same catchy tune, called Ride of the Valkyries, not March of the Wolf King.  And the humans have a funny way of notating it, too:

Well, since he already knew the tune.....

you get the idea.

(FYI: He won the first trombone spot with the North Rudfunk Symphony but then lost tenure when he organized a pack of brass players to attack the conductor)