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Finding your musical personality


Ken Nielsen
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To communicate with your inner self. Not everyone HAS much of a (musical) inner self, but if you unite what you have honestly, with G-d and people and the world, then you begin to have a genuine personality, and if you feel how music should sound, then bring it out....the problem is that you might think the best way is like the way someone else does it.

Well, I think it is a very high accomplishment to have a musical personality of ones own, but quite a few children also have it to an extent. Ester Kim too.

Menuhin believed that Jews and Russians (or was it Chineese) have it often, because they suffered alot.

Well, for sure, a person who has endured much suffering and struggles and and gets through it and refines his/her personality, especially if he/she was a sensitive type to begin with, and then longs for self expression, might have a great musical personality and be able to understand the music from deeply within oneself, which would be best, and then bring it out with unrestrained love and passion.

Yehudi Menuhin also spoke of Anger being expressed through music. But that would mean imho converted anger, converted into deep emotion, which can inspire others.

It also has to be expressed through beauty and complexity, for it to be great music, because music is meant to be something deeper than language or symbolism. It should an outpouring of the soul, not from the baser side of a person. The most genuine part which connects a person to G-d and the universe.

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staylor,

I loved your reply...............very deep and meaningful.

It's a question I often ponder as well. My only addition to your comment would be that sometimes the music itself dictates a certain mode of expression, by the nature of the rising or falling phrase, or any articulation or dynamics that the composer specified. Great food for thought!

I'm currently working on Dvorak's Romance, Op. 11, and dealing with many expressive issues. My teacher played this piece with an orchestra 2 years ago, but luckily allows me the freedom to express myself my way, which I think is important.

Josie

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If you have not yet the pleasure of reading the book, "The inner Game of Music" by Kenny Warner I highly recommend it. This book deals explicitly with this issue.

I have only been a musician for 1.5 years of my 41 on this planet so can only offer that which I understand with this little bit of experience. As a musician I recognize two distinct beings inside of me. There is the analytical being and then there is the artistic being. If you are trying to mimick someone than you are using the analitical being and that is why it is obvious to the audience.

I find that in order to discover my musicality that I have to surrender to my artistic being when I am with my instrument and performing. Obviously that surrender can only happen in its complete form when I have practiced effortless technique enough so that I can leave my analytical being alone. I discovered in my short time that if I practice my technique correctly that when it is time to surrender to the music that there is no problem to it. I visualize and allow my body to feel the phrases. In this way the musicality just sort of happens.

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Hi Ken! I need to quit repeating myself, I think, but in this connection, I always think of how Mr. Galamian (in Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching ) warns teachers not to give up too early on the musicial development of their students, but then he adds "and yet, you can't light a fire where no flammable material exists."

The other thing I can think of, with respect to performance on the violin, is that students often take great care to plan every nuance, bowing, articulation, rhythmic give-and-take, in some piece they're preparing, without leaving anything to the inspiration of the moment. And so their performance sounds contrived.

Another problem is listening to recordings, and copying the nuances of some successful artist, down to the micro level, and the performance, again, sounds contrived. What teachers will tell you is not listen to the recordings of the pieces you're working on, but to other works by the same composer, in order to avoid this problem.

But musical personality; it seems, at least initially, like there is a logical contradiction between the Suzuki notion of "every child can" and the apparent differences in musical ability among students. And here's an example: I have one student who just turned four. Dad's a PhD in engineering who owns his own company, mom's a ballet dancer, retired. This child has studied with me for four months, violin and piano, and has already passed the Twinkle on both instruments, and is rushing ahead in the other materials I've given her. Mom works with her every day and Mom, child and Dad are sweet, even tempered and affectionate. What a prize this one is. She wants to be a conductor when she grows up and we're started looking at scores (I'm not exaggerating).

I'm afraid to have my other students hear her play because she's tiny, and can play--in a few months--better than my adult and other beginning students who have been playing for much longer. And she has a musical personality; they listen to music all the time and she recognizes what she considers to be bad and good performances, recognizes the instruments, recognizes when they're playing out of tune.

I didn't teach her these things.

T.F.

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Ken, you know, I got off on my own thing and really didn't address your (very perceptive) question about *how* to develop your own musical personality. Isn't it partially inate ability coupled with a great deal of hard work? It's a difficult question because it doesn't have a single answer. I think inate ability+hard work is the best I can do at the moment.

And with regard to soloists, everyone knows what a great career Stern had, but when he was first in New York, he couldn't get a single job in any orchestra. His playing was too individualistic, I guess...not sure. But imagine Solerno-Sonnenberg trying to play in the first violin section? That's not going to happen. I guess she is *too* individualistic to do that, but just fine as a soloist--one of the best, in my view. I love her playing.

So do soloists have more musical personality than those destined for orchestral playing? Maybe. Or different personality in kind.

As far as the audience sensing if a performance is genuine, that is true. Children and animals and audiences sense the genuine from the contrived or false; in "Art of the Piano" and "Art of the Violin" (two films), you can see it on the faces of the audience, as they listen to, say, Heifetz.

And I agree with Ms. Taylor's idea of the suffering of the artist. Despite a university course or two, I am no authority on giftedness, but my mother (whom I lost recently) used to cry when I played hymns for her on the piano. I put my whole heart into them because her mother played and I played the ones that meant a lot to her. You can feel when your performance is genuine, though I'm not sure I can verbalize it. It's like the cloud of music you're sitting in, is full, somehow. Everything is clear as a bell, your breath is a part of the music, everything is perfect. Impossible to verbalize without waxing into poetry. "Magical" - is the word? Kind of like the holy ghost enters the room and the world stands still. Always happens in great performances and some artists - like Horowitz or Casals --carry this aura around with them, in every note they play.

T.F.

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Quote:

But imagine Solerno-Sonnenberg trying to play in the first violin section? That's not going to happen.


Actually, my husband was stand partners with her in the Juilliard Orchestra and thought she was a fine orchestral player. She's a lot more versatile than people give her credit for.

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Quote:

>> But imagine Solerno-Sonnenberg trying to play in the first violin section? That's not going to happen.

>> Actually, my husband was stand partners with her in the Juilliard Orchestra and thought she was a fine orchestral player. She's a lot more versatile than people give her credit for.


How exciting! I didn't at all mean to suggest she isn't versatile. Quite the opposite.

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Ken,

I think you have raised a very complex issue.

1. First of all, once you have developed the skill (techcnique) it is possible to play music so as to "move" other people - even if you don't really feel much depth in the music yourself.

2. It is possible to to be a person who is moved by "art" in many media but not be able to express yourself through any of the media.

3. Can you completely memorize music and they "replay" it out of your right brain with your added emotional seasoning? Can you read music, and play it utilizing your left brain while still adding some right brain seasoning? Have you tried playing the same music both ways and felt (yes "felt") the difference? What does that say about adding your own musical personality?

4. People (I was among them) who saw him said Jasha Heifetz showed no emotion in his playing - but you could certainly hear it coming from the music he made.

We had a marvelous cellist at my college who did not play in the school orchestra, but in his senior year he played the Boccherini Concerto with the orchestra - a reprise of his solo performance with the SFSO when he was a HS senior 4 years earlier. His body and face showed no emotion at all, but the music was full of emotion. Jerry (his name) said why waste the enery on facial and body expressions. You know, of course that everything you hear coming out with the music is put there by technique. Whatever these great artists feel, it gets into their music (or whatever art medium they use) by technique.

5. As a player (especially in chamber music) I am overwhelmed by strong emotions as my "musical personality" is overwhelmed by that of the long-dead composers whose music we play. They put this "emotion", this "personality" into the music they wrote. In most cases this had to have been a "studied" ("contrived" if you will) thing. So too, when you play music you practice different ways of playing certain parts and then, perhaps, choose to always use particular ones that express what you want the music to sound like ("say").

For a casual chamber musician (like me) for whom so much of their music is played for the first time (or at best only a few times) the trick seems to be to get a sense of the whole and its phrases as you play along and attempt to express those in your playing. It is helpful that different composer, their music, and the period in which the lived and composed have certain stylistic elements for which there are certain techniques. Applying these goes a long way toward building a "musical personality." Deviating from these stylistic standards may mark a strong anachronistic musical personality if the player has the technique necessary to carry it off - and it makes a musical statement that others can interpret.

Andy

Andy

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I think you have covered alot here, Andrew.

If a person gets all the technique of a piece, and has it by heart, and can then focus on the feeling (using a different part of the brain than was imagined doing before), that should enable his musical personality to come through.

If the music is learned, but the technique is very weak, sometimes, I feel that when on a high plane, I can bring out much more than someone with my technique would ever dream of, like a miracle, but hard to repeat, because it was raw energy which is not a constant thing. If not recorded, it's lost.

Not showing emotion, I can understand. But the worsed thing would be to TRY to appear without emotion. It's best simply not to think of external appearance, isn't it?

I think Menuhin sometimes showed emotion at the same time that emotion was heard too. (deep awe)

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Obviously there's alot to worry about, not to be able to waste it on visible emotion, e.g. to get the desired effects, I have found it can be a very exacting combination of ideas which once missed, is lost in that performance. So all the energy can be taken up, and it's better to get the violin to "say" it, than to merely imagine it, whilst the audience can't see what you thought you meant!

Not to take for granted that just because you thought of it, it came out like that!

However, I've noticed on videos, that players seemed to intend more than what was heard.

WOW! THAT'S revealing! Even famous violinists think they are playing better than they are! You can see it in their expression, what they were aiming for!

Is this all true Andrew?

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What an intersting topic to ponder.

The way I descipher my musical personality, is HOW I play. Meaning, do I play the music exactly as written, or do I play it with creshendos where they dont belong, and forte's and paino's where they arent written. you hear the four seasons a lot, but each time you hear it, it is played a different way. Maybe I am not analyzing it enough, but I have a feeling that there is much, much more to a musical personality then this. I just cant grasp it right now.

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