Thursday, November 6, 2008

Comment on the Comment

This is in reference to the comment I got to the post "Repetition-Redundant-Rut....New Route." It was an excellent comment/observation of something I'm sure many people experience!

Here's my response:

To start, let's remember that a conductor is a human being! Sometimes this is forgotten. They are trained the same basic way any instrumentalist is trained and have been or still are instrumentalists themselves. 

Many times a conductor has a strict schedule to maintain and the quickest way for them to rehearse is by repetition. so the orchestra 'machine' is well programed and the notes and timings are programed into the musicians. Lots of this kind of rehearsing could be diminished if the players knew the parts better before rehearsal.

Let's know look at the word "rehearsal." Rehears-al or rehears(e) al(l). In other words, to listen over and over again, to be intimate with as many aspects of the score or part as possible.

Now, the problem, oftentimes, is that the conductor is so preoccupied with making sure that everything is correct or note perfect that the deeper aspects can get overlooked. When this kind of relentless repetition happens it can turn into a re- HEARSE-al(l)! This is very unfortunate because what unifies a group the quickest and most effectively is a unified purpose and concept. When this vital element is at play, all aspects of ensemble (blend, pitch, intonation, dynamic contrasts, phrasing) can almost magically come together in a living way--an art that s not always put into practice. 

The art, the art of connecting to the essence of the music, is not taught by many people. Therefore, it is not taught to students whether they be instrumentalists, singers or conductors. It is, seemingly, more 'abstract' than whether something is out of tune or not in rhythm.--which can too readily translate to "too abstract to deal with."

One of the values of repetition is comparison. If we have in use the comparison of when something is connected (closer to the essence) as opposed to just playing it well, then we have a different standard. It is a matter of how someone is educated and what they are exposed to. This is something the Frequency Band tries to offer, but if it is not applied (regularly into practice), then it will not become part of a persons skill and art.

The next time you are in a rehearsal and this 'repetitive, not going anywhere' stuff is happening, ask yourself what you can do to help. Listen to your own playing and your section's playing and be connected to your feelings about the piece, regardless of what might be going on around you. I know that can be tough! But give it a try. It could, through your repeated efforts, make a difference and be contagious to others--even the conductor!

1 comment:

Gabe Langfur said...

I have been playing in a student orchestra lately, and I can say that one of the reasons conductors use repetition is because it works! Students do become more aware of what is happening in the music through simple repetition, even with almost no comment at all. Of course, enlightened and enlightening commentary can accelerate the process.

Awareness is one of the skills that can take time to develop, even among the most talented young musicians. With awareness comes the ability to be flexible to the musicians around you and also play your own instrument at the very top of your ability...simultaneously!

It's exhilarating when it happens, and sometimes student orchestras perform at a higher level of connection than professional orchestras, in large part because of the sheer amount of repetition they have done in their rehearsal process. This is one of the reasons I enjoy playing as a ringer so much - it's a different kind of energy than professional ensembles, and I find it nourishing.