Friday, June 4, 2010

Not Music Does This Make!

The C.R.A.F.T. of orchestral playing now is:
Consistency Reliability Accuracy Focus Translucent

What about this word translucent? That seems to stick out a bit. How would one go about practicing it? What is meant by translucent here is the ability to blend in with anything so you do not 'disturb' the blend or ensemble. It is the ability of doing what needs to be done and no more than that. No rough edges, no 'risky' chances, and the ability to hide or disguise your weaknesses. It is practical and safe advice if you are a last minute sub for someone on a heavy concert. It might be a somewhat useful strategy for a freelancer as well at times.

Interesting that the uniform of the orchestra is black and white just like a keyboard. And basically a person is auditioning to be a key on the orchestral keyboard.

The orchestral uniform in brass playing right now is getting to be a one size fits all in terms of musical content. To want a uniform sound has its merits but not all music can fit into that confinement. Orchestral players can be so obsessed with evenness of sound they can miss the spirit of the music. Decibel levels are not the only means of color change. The biggest change comes when there is an actual character or frequency change. Then the change is on the level of vibration and sentiment. Finding things on the level of technique only works with a limited part of the human instrument and can never be a replacement for connection to the essence.

Repetition is a very powerful tool. Almost everything has an element of repetition. What is practicing? It is doing things over and over again until it becomes 'second' nature, second nature means it is in our programming and our automatic systems repeat it. BUT, depending on how we practice, we also put our attitudes, emotional states and physical qualities into the programming as well.

Most people have had the experience of reading a book or seeing a movie more than once. Isn't it amazing the things we pick and notice after a second viewing or reading? Same things happen when listening to music over and over again. And with thoughtful practice we can put together and develop other qualities. Even the development of muscular strength happens with repetition. The challenge is to not let the the repeated efforts get so automatic in the practice room that they become unconscious. I know people who are like orchestral excerpt vending machines. Put in a quarter, and out comes a nice prepackaged excerpt. The problem in my view is it can sound stale or out of date meaning past the fresh stage.

Out of date, that is an interesting one. That can get into current fashion, the orchestral uniform of any given era. If a person does want an orchestral job, they need to fit into that uniform. Is it possible to wear the uniform but still put the soul of oneself into it somehow? That would be what I would suggest. Then you don't totally sell your soul.

I can just imagine the great Jedi master Yoda saying, "Good intonation, rhythm and control, not music does this make!" Is the 'Force' with you when you play?