Friday, November 7, 2008

You Become What You Practice or Rehearse

This is an interesting subject, so there will be all sorts of opinions on it, which is great!  It promotes deepening.

Let's be clear.  Life as we know it cannot exist without repetition. Think about it-- your heart beat, breathing,  walking, planetary rotation, eating and sleeping, the list goes on infinitely. Tempo itself is based in repetition.

Repetition does work as a technique in rehearsals. But the question is, "What kind?" 

For example, if two people are dating, they usually don't say to others, "Sally and I have been seeing each other repetitively." It is usually called dating, which means seeing each other on a regular basis to get to know each other. So the value of repetition in rehearsing or practicing is to get to know the piece more intimately, which is building a relationship with the piece. 

Once a relationship with the piece is built, which of course can deepen over time, there is the possibility of interacting with its essence, and having a richer communication with it. 

Just because someone is doing something on a repetitive basis, whether its rehearsing or seeing another person or having been at a job for 30 years, does not automatically  give rise to profound insight or result. It does give experience, but depending on what the person's motives, reasons and sentiments about life are, it can provide ever expanding perception and greater understanding or an attitude of "time to make the donuts." 

Also, it has not been my experience that the reason why student orchestras sound more connected at times is because of lots repetition. I think it happens in spite of all the repetition because of the enthusiasm and freshness of the attitude they bring to it. It has not become stale, it is still new.

As a great mentor of mine used to say, "Its not what you do, its the reasons why you do it."

Contemplation: You are what you practice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Concerning reasons and motives...

I think it's tragedy when conductors/musicians make their musical motives to be about themselves...

Lately I've realized that there are many selfish people in this business. I know people are in music for all sorts of reasons. Maybe it helps them understand/cope with life... maybe the music gives them inner peace in a world which is not always such... maybe it just bring happiness... etc...

But in many cases, music is not about the individual - ESPECIALLY when others are involved (i.e. your section mates, the other members of your orchestra/ensemble, the people in your audience)

People matter.

I guess what I'm getting at is that a person's reasons/motives for music are easily identifiable, especially when working with them in a rehearsal setting. The longer you work with someone, you eventually figure out what they're all about.

Is there an energy/connection felt between your section mates because every one of you is unified by a common goal? Does your orchestra play with life and vigor because they feel a live connection between all its members and the conductor?

Most of us want to answer "yes" but can't.

Sometimes a conductor can inspire this kind of unity. They understand that making music is really about every single person in the ensemble coming together for a common purpose. The same applies for section mates who are pulling for one another. There is an unspoken, yet very real, selflessness about these two situations.

What gets me is the conductor or musician who's in it for him/herself. They're often self-indulgent when it comes to making music. There's no team-spirit, no evident comaraderie, no support for the endeavors of others. I've found that when "trying" to work with people like this, they tend to be very detrimental to the overall "success" of the ensemble.

One of the best examples of selflessness I ever saw from a "youth orchestra" was a performance of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela last year. This group sounded like no youth orchestra I'd ever heard. From the moment they took the stage, there was an electricity that could be felt, that emitted to the very last row at Symphony Hall. How do you explain this? This is unusual for any orchestra (youth, student, pro) in this country. Maybe it was because this group harbored the true essence of teamship through every single one of its members, including the conductor, Gustavo Dudamel. Each person wanted the other to succeed, and to take none for themselves. (I recall hearing that Dudamel never takes a bow during audience applause, because this would be an act of taking credit for himself...)

Repetition has been at the heart of this discussion... but maybe the problem is not in the mindless rehearsing, but rather in the motives behind each musician involved. Perhaps too many people are concerned with themselves... "I hate this conductor - I don't care what he thinks..." "Man I'm gonna make sure everyone hears me in Heldenleben tonight..." "What a weak group! - I'm gonna bury everyone with my mammoth SOUND!"

...or conductors that take the credit for themselves... "I created this..." "The performance was a success because I was at the podium..." "MY FAME..." "MY GLORY..."

Let's focus less on ourselves and more on others.