Archivos del mes: 31 diciembre 2010

THE STOLEN SILENCE

Planta_xalapea

It is not the silence of indifference that I search for. It’s that other kind of silence, when we need to think, to stop and make better use of our brains. That’s the one!

            I am known in my family as a weird creature who cannot eat at a restaurant when music is played at such exaggerated levels that a human voice can hardly be heard. I suffer specially with bad music, unfortunately too common in our daily lives, thrown to us in the shape of an extremely unpleasant aural pollution of which nobody has asked our opinion.

            So I am known as the obsessive one, asking in every place that makes my ears hurt if the speaker volume could be turned down or even shut off. This is very difficult in a country like Mexico, where streets and shops often have more than five loud speakers with different simultaneous sounds coming. Multi-tonality in the shape of chaos… Family members who are not musicians think it’s an exaggeration, but among musician friends, especially composers, we all relate the same way to noise, loud ones, and bad ones.

            Whenever I am sitting in the orchestra in front of the percussion section, I need to take out my pencil, the indispensable tool for any musical decision to be taken at rehearsals – besides of course a good eraser – and mark down in my part where the fortissimos can hurt my ears. I complement this first step of caution with a pair of ear plugs kept in the tuning key holder attached to my harp, in order to be ready to protect my ears in such loud spots. I want my hearing to last many years. I need my ears in excellent shape in order to keep making music and enjoying the quality of other musicianstalents.

            With such behavior and or interest, it should not come as a surprise why a book on this topic ended up in my hands. According to author George Prochnik’s “IN PURSUIT OF SILENCE”, (Doubleday), listening in a world of noise we should ask ourselves if and why our society is actually losing the value of silence.

            Some time ago I was attending an extremely sad funeral and noticed a deep, tense silence with the sorrow of the people gathered. It was a tragic farewell to a young person who was kidnapped and murdered. There was, in the middle of such a horrible story, no possible consolation or rational explanation to this specific death enmeshed in cruelty and violence.

Then came Bach on the organ. Pause. An immediate, overwhelming sigh was heard.  Pause.

            I could almost see (with my ears and feelings), how the crowd landed in this collective and profound sigh that brought people to an even deeper silence. Pause. Nothing else was sounding in the air, except breathing and the floating baroque notes within its phrases. And the silences sounded. Only then, ears and hearts were opened to words of consolation and condolence, and people were able to deal with the first difficult step of acceptance.

            This has to do with what author George Prochnik starts his book with, in this search around silence: a list of people to be interviewed regarding silence, followed by chapters about people who produce and design noise for different purposes.

            He started the project getting in contact with Quakers, asking them about religion, contemplation and silence. They explained to him that there are levels of silence, one where we can sink, and another one that is able to make us sing. Silence, Quakers truly believe, is definitely a listening. To them it’s also the antidote to the distraction of noise. After all, they conclude, silence is the language of the soul”.

            Second on his list was a lady astronaut who experienced complete silence in space, after many hours of the usual noise produced by the constant communication between space ship and Houston. She compared the experience of listening to silence to another imaginary one, picturing herself with a pair of glasses with which she enjoyed this silence and could also SEE the stars and the complete depth of space.

            As Henry David Thoreau believed, sounds are the servants of silence. Sound has windows, spaces of silence or lower energy.

We can recognize a specific voice when these windows line up, explains professor of hearing science Mario Svirsky.

            The roots of the word silence have partly their origin in the Gothic verb “analisan”, which means “wind dying”, plus the Latin “de sinere”, meaning stop, both roots sharing an idea of interrupted action.

            Our era is sadly an age of incessancy. We don’t know how to stop. Sound imposes someone else’s narrative, it reminds us of other people, not ourselves. Silence brings our thoughts and stories closer to ourselves. We can hear ourselves thanks to silence.

            fMRI technology may show brains of people who practice silent meditation. The result of these tests indicates that their brains do work better than the ones surrounded by noise. Silence enhances attention. I find this soothing and interesting. It´s not only me needing it!

            And besides, according to Stanford University neuroscientists, while listening to music, it is silent moments that show more intense brain activity. 45 000 fatal heart attacks per year might be the consequence of noise related stress. Pause. I wonder what Bach’s fugues would be without the silence between musical questions and answers in his brilliant counterpoint. What would become of me, poor mortal musician, without the pauses within his genius structure and musical refinement?

            Reports at Hopkins University show that there is actually more and more hearing loss than ever before. One of three persons in the USA suffers hearing impairment due to noise, and this happens at younger ages than it used to a few decades ago.

            The book includes a policemans story about how many times he has been called by people with complaints about noise. In most of the cases he concludes that the real problem is sound stress, when at home all the electronics are turned on at the same time, thus loud television and radio combined with fighting and yelling does not allow a family to have any true communication. It prevents individuals from feeling and knowing what they really want. Forget about them thinking!

            Silence and sound are woven together. Our society seems to be madly in love with thick noise. This book sets out to explain what silence can offer while analyzing these two sides of a single topic.

            I read about Prochnik’s visit to Zen gardens, shopping malls, experts on sound isolation, noise measurement instrument designers, monasteries, neurologists, studies of pitch and decibels in Hitler’s speeches, and  so on. It should teach me how to talk about this with my students listening to their Ipods too many hours, injuring themselves. It should make me focus about how to take care of my own ears, how to think more and polish these ideas.

            While taking breaks after reading, I added to my thoughts some walks in a Veracruzan landscape with a camera, to trap instants of silence where insects jump from leaf to leaf, spiders play their fine harp strings, where vegetables grow green and silent. Birds accompanied my thoughts while young sheep called their mothers and dogs improvised a choir that created dynamics across the coffee plantation valleys. Silence can also be a space to see life and its inner deep poetry.

            These thoughts are, in my opinion, a good way to start a new year full of space to fill with new creative musical ideas. I love to be a musician and I love silence. Even if Mexican waiters in noisy restaurants put up a strange face when I tell them so after their asking why I don’t like the sound hitting minds, ears,tables, decision making, forks, spirits, thoughts and glasses…

            I love music and I love silence.

Anuncios

WORKING WITH LEO AND HIS PREPARED HARPS (part 1)

Leos_prepared_harp

Dear Leo:
Thanks again, muito obrigada och tack so mycket!

I have started revising your sketches. It´s lot of fun to
prepare the harps! Your ideas are great!

I tried, instead of the kladdmassa you suggest, to simply tie with one or
two knots rubber bands in the string at specific places to produce those
two sounds you want. It works just fine and I think then you could avoid the
use of a wet material in the string that could damage it´s gut -in the case
of gut strings,- and leave humidity in the nylon ones, because that could
make the playing difficult for the finger, since it´s slippery.

Regarding the notation, I understand musically the use of the third line for
the percussion effect in the soundboard, but it would make the playing
easier if you write both harp parts (harp 1 and harp 2) in two staffs,
taking always in consideration what left and right hands are doing, so the
percussion is possible. Maybe you could gain speed by only using percussion
effects in one hand that does not play any strings.

The metronomic speed we will sort of have to figure out after practicing the
passages and seeing what is really possible. If you want the piece really
fast, I recommend that you simplify the percussion needs and leave 2 or 3 options instead of 6, and not put them all the time if you have fast notes to be
played.

The harp already needs preparation to hit the string and
articulate, remember it´s not as fast and soft as a guitar to play. Maybe a
good idea is to alternate with more time to prepare, since you have two
harps, so one could be playing the percussion while the other plays string
figures, just as you are doing measure after measure, but only in longer
ideas and space for preparation.

The shapes of the notes in the percussion line are small (or I am too old?,
ha!), and to me they seem more confusing that if you simply write measure
after measure  KNUCKLES or FINGERS. We don´t have long nails, so that sound of them over the soundboard you might want to consider, the use of such short nails sounds very soft.

I tried to play the sketch at metronome 96 =the quarter note and the
reading of your suggested notation still makes it very difficult to read,
even at that tempo. Of course while practicing, speed comes with time for
the brain to coordinate this all, but still I think the ideas are too
condensed at such tempo and-or the reading is complicated.

So if you really want a fast tempo you might want to consider editing the part so the hands can prepare in advance the passage, instead of jumping each measure to a different requirement. Then we can see if writing the score in two staffs makes it easier to read and practice. Of course, it would be great to know
what Stina thinks about this. Would you like me to send her this or will you
be able to see her and ask for her opinion? Also, we have to decide who will
play harp 1 and who will play harp 2.

Please tell me what you think!
I will keep trying and writing ideas!
Big hug,
Mercedes

—– Original Message —–
From: “Leo Correia de Verdier” Tuesday, December 14, 2010 5:09 PM
Subject: Sketches

Dear Mercedes:

Here comes a sketch/two pages from the future duo for prepared harps and a
page with the preparations and explanation of the notation. I have not
worked through all of the preparations yet, so if you have some comments
on them, please tell me. I also wonder about the speed of the piece. I
think of it as a lively piece, almost to fast to be good to dance to. Does
a tempo of 132 BPM quarter-notes work or is it to fast to be playable?

Kladdmassa, mentioned in the preparations for harp I is a kind of
blu-tack-like sticky paste that can beformed to balls and attached to the
strings (Blu-tack or any equivalent you have in Mexico should probably do
as good). These preparations need to be tuned with exact amounts of
kladdmassa, so balls of kladdmassa need to be prepared before performance.
If you can send me your post address I can send you some, so we can be
sure there is no misunderstanding. The prepared string vibrates with two
pitches, the fundamental pitch of the string, lowered by the weight of the
kladdmassa (that sounds up to about a major second or minor third below
the original pitch of the string) and the pitches of the divided parts of
the string (I am using the harmonic, so it sounds about an octave above
the original pitch of the string).

I’m thinking about using a hairpin for the unknown preparation in for harp
1.

Hope everything is well with you and to hear from you soon. Next time I
write I will probably be in Brazil.

Hugs,
/Leo

Leo, sketches.pdf
Leo, instructions.pdf

WORKING WITH LEO, part 2

—– Original Message —–
From: “Leo Correia de Verdier”
To: “Mercedes Gómez Benet” Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 9:39 PM

Dear Mercedes:

Thanks a lot for the reply and feedback from last e-mail, it’s really great to not have to guess all that much and to know there’s someone in the other end who cares about what I’m writing.

Here comes an updated version of the same part I sent in the last mail. I
have written the music on two staves and used only three different
noteheads, x for soundboard, rhombic for strings that do not produce their
original pitch when played and usual for the other strings.

The photo you posted makes me think I numbered the octaves the wrong way:
I started at the bass end.

If the rubber bands stay in place and work they can do as good (or better,
since they’re dry) than the kladdmassa. Maybe you will have to tie some
extra weight in to get the right pitch for the lower notes. I will be back
in Sweden 17/1 and can do some trying then if you want.

The fast alternation of the soundboard percussion figures between the
harps is needed because they are prepared and pedaled differently. If
needed I will reduce the percussion bits, but I still hope you can manage
them. I’m not really sure how fast the music needs to be played to achieve
the effect I’m looking for. It should indeed be quite dense, perhaps even
a bit too dense. Would it be possible for you to make a simple demo
recording at a speed you find suitable?

The next passage I’m writing has some glissandos done with the tuning key
used as a guitar slide on a single string. Does it work in the register
I’m writing? Does the notation I’ve used make sense and seem practical?

I’m also including a later passage that is still quite sketchy. Does
bisbigliando with one hand make any sense or should it be just a normal
tremolo? Does the wide skips of the right hand of harp II work at all? I
will still work through what hand plays what and probably add some more
notes for harp I.

Happy New Year!
Hugs
/Leo

Dec 31, 2010.

Dear Leo!

Of course I care about your writing! We are a team!
What would become of us players without you composers?
😉

I will try to reply to you questions in a clear way. Let me know if it works, please!

HOW HARP STRINGS ARE PLACED AND NAMED:

Regarding how you counted the strings in the harp, it´s as follows:

I enclose pictures for you to see it. The very upper tiny ones are G-00 and F-00, and then the real count in groups of complete octaves begins going down to thicker and longer strings.
The strings in the harp are grouped in octaves (with 7 strings each group)
that start from E, counting down to F. That first group in the upper
register, after the two little G-00 and F-00 are the first octave, usually
nylon: E, D, C, B, A, G and F.

(C is red and F is black or dark blue in all the sections of the harp.)

Then second octave, always beginning with E and finishing with F. Same
distribution. Some harpists use 2nd octave strings made of gut, but in our third
world we mostly use nylon due to how expensive they are and change to gut whenever a very important concert or recording happens. This use of string materials changes from harpist to harpist and from instruments and the use they have, if they belong to schools, orchestras, private teaching, etc.

The counting keeps working the same descendant way as before, now looking from third octave (gut) until fifth octave which changes material in it´s last two strings, which are G and F and happen to be the first wire strings in the harp. This is important if you want to write for example harmonics. They sound better in the middle gut strings. If you want to use pedal glissandi, wires are more effective.

Sixth and seventh octaves are the remaining wires and the 7th octave only
has E, D and C, this very last one is usually the last string in the harp (depending on models, but this is the most standard). Notice that the two last strings (D and C) cannot be modified by pedals moving discs, so you need to tune them in sharp, flat or natural before a concert, depending on what specific pitch you need from those two lower notes.

RUBBER BANDS:

I do think they will stay in place and if needed extra weight, extra knots can be done in that specific rubber band at the desired string where you want the effect.

DENSITY IN SOUNDBOARD PERCUSSION AND SPEED IN THE PIECE:

The speed might be one of the last things you will be able to figure out together with your two harp players. Once you arrive back to Sweden, please let me know if you could see these details with Stina. We need to define who will play harp 1 and who will play harp 2. Maybe she should lead with harp 1 since she will be closer to you these following weeks. Whatever you two decide and-or suggest is fine, just let me know. I am thrilled about playing any of the parts!

The density in the writing, and specially the changes of movements in what hands do, this will definitely affect the final speed. If you go for longer phrases, giving always time for the hands to do these changes, you can get a faster result than if the changes are one after the other at too fast tempo. I still need to work the passage long time, before telling you if it is or not possible. These are general observations. Later on, of course, we harpists can both try to record a passage to try a suitable speed. If you want something really dense and extremely fast, you will have to edit the harps parts maybe in a way where they play more like question-answer between them. I repeat: writing for harps requires a very good capacity of edition! Leave the indispensable and take out what might slow or make music unclear. (Like in hai-ku writing!) 

GLISSANDI WITH TUNING KEY OR METALSHANK

Nowadays most of us use rubber coated tuning keys, so you might want to specify that a metal shank like a screwdriver could work fine as well.

If you remember the book I took to KMH to the composition workshop last October, “WRITING FOR THE PEDAL HARP– A standardized manual for composers and harpists” by Ruth K. Inglefield and Lou Anne Neil (available in www.vanderbiltmusic.com), there is a chapter called “Extra-digital production of sound and color”. The suggestion of these authors regarding tuning key glissandi, goes for both 1) pitch not specified and 2) pitch specified.

In 1) not specified pitch, you must press the previously placed metal shank against the string right after playing that specified string, moving it immediately up or down, or up and down. You can try with two neighboring strings played simultaneously, by placing the metal shank between them and doing the indicated movement up or down. In all cases this means that BOTH hands are busy! So you cannot write other notes to be played while this happens (like you did in measure 51 on the sample page of tuning key glissandi). If the piece is slow and it give time to prepare the gliss, then it might be possible.

The sign could be clearer just with a  T, (the shape of the tuning key) above the note, plus a regular glissando line indicating if it should go up or down.

In 2), specified pitch, same idea of writing, but specifying in the bottom of the desired note, in which string should it be done. This chosen string can be written with a parenthesis around its note.  It´s important also to define in the glissando which note starts it and which ends it.

What you wrote are small intervals, you might want to try bigger ones. This also depends a lot on the final speed of the piece, and it might not be completely exact. This does not matter if what you want is only an effect. If it is a more important melodic participation, I suggest you to listen to Federico´s Little Songs for Children from George Crumb, where the harp is repeating the flute and or soprano melody on one string, using the glissando with tuning key. He gives the harpist the very clear indication of in which string to play the melody and then it´s very possible with the preparation time. Nothing else happens in the harp at that moment, since both hands are busy, one holding the tuning key, the other playing the specified string.

Seems like a lot in the harp has to do with preparation, not only the harp being prepared but the idiomatic way the hands move in the instrument as well!

BISBGLIANDO: It´s much better with two hands, it´s faster and more even. A normal tremolo is also better with two hands, and possible with one hand, but in most harpists it is slower and for shorter time than a long one played with two hands. I would choose a 2 hands one.

LATER PASSAGE AND SECOND HARP QUESTIONS:

            –Measure 74: I would recommend to write the left hand one octave lower in all that following passage, since it hits the same notes at spots than the right hand and that would make the passage dirty, instead of letting the strings ring clearly with the sixteenth notes you have in right hand.

            -Measure 77, maybe you want to get rid of the e and e# in the left hand to let it work in the bisbigliando helping the right hand. Then the left hand would be ready for the thumb slap and next note. Also, harp 1 could do the quarter notes in the 5/4 measure 80 or some similar combination between the two harps.

            -Measure 83, if you rewrite that passage in the left hand one octave lower you would also be using a very resonant section of the harp and the combination with harmonics and their different colors will be more noticeable. You might try the harmonic also one octave lower. Let me know if you liked it!

            -Measure 93 and following ones: If you change what hands are doing (leave the harmonic to the left hand and the d-b and c quarter notes to the right one along the passage in similar places), it will be easier to play. The jump between the harmonic in the right hand and the upper high notes in the right is too huge. You could take out the “one octave higher” sign, and-or maybe give the other harp the original d-b and c quarter notes. In measure 94, you can write the harmonic in F clef in the left hand. You will see a similar case in measure 97. The hand crossing there makes things harder, especially with the harmonic and the jump.

            This is all for now. Please keep in touch!

WONDERFUL MUSICAL NEW YEAR to all!!!

Dsc03031Dsc03032Dsc03035Dsc03034Dsc03033
duosketch.pdf
duo2.pdf
gliss – Harp 1.pdf
Working with Leo part 2, attachment 2.pdf

WORKING WITH LEO, part 3

Colibri

14 SKISSER TILL EVIGHETSMASKINER for two harps by Leo Correia de Verdier

 

After finishing his adventurous, creative and imaginative piece

14 SKISSER TILL EVIGHETSMASKINER for two harps, (possible English translation  ”14 Perpetuum Mobile Sketches”) and sending pictures, instructions and file http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3491630/preparering.mov ,explaining how to prepare the instruments, here are Leo Correia de Verdier´s words for this blog:

“I write about myself and things that interest or fascinate me, but I’m actually more satisfied when my listeners hear themselves  things that fascinate or interest them. 

 

I was born 1980 in Salvador, Brazil and grew up in moving back and forth between Sweden and Brazil. I have studied composition at Janáčková konservatoř, Gotlands tonsättarskola, Musikhögskolan i Piteå and musicology at Stockholm University and Uppsala University. Now I am pursuing my master degree in composition at Kungliga Musikhögskolan in Stockholm. I have met many fantastic teachers and a lot of other inspiring people (and others less so, but let’s not dwell on them). 

 

I write my pieces as elaborations on concepts or qualities, mostly as emotional/intuitive constructions on different aspects of them. In my music I often explore the less used sounds of the instruments I’m working with and employ not the full range of possibilities, but different parts of it. I often use techniques derived from classical counterpoint or other older compositional techniques. 

 

I like to take care of the situations in witch my music is performed. I’m interested in the social aspects of music and art. Many of my pieces have a ritual quality and explore how people experience music and art in new or unexpected circumstances. I have collaborated with musicians, artists, designers and choreographers to create and develop the circumstances in which my work is perceived and add more layers of expression and meaning”. 

 

Dear Leo:
Here are some of my observations about the harp 1 part. I am including Stina in this mail, so she can take a look to similar passages in harp 2 and comment about this if she needs to.
-Regarding us deciding the dynamics, I think we will do that once we rehearse, each of us with suggestions-ideas about places where the music naturally takes us to fortes or pianos, etc. I already have some ideas, so I will point them out one by one and of course, will keep noticing more while I practice more the piece. For example, measure 7, I feel a forte there to finish the section. Maybe both hands can play octaves? Same in measure24, left hand. Not only forte, but the resonance will be greater due to the register!
-Regarding tempi, I see the May premiere as a first try to see what really works well at which speed, since there are some complicated passages that still require  jumps and suffer lack of time for preparations to do different things, such as harmonics immediatelly after real notes. I will point out those spots exactly so you consider my suggestions. If you trust us enough, Stina and I can make a copy of the parts after the concert so you can do a final or almost final editing with the things that worked out well from these suggestions while rehearsing together. Would you like this? Harp writing takes a lot of editing to have these aspects in consideration and it´s until you see them in the player that you will see the effort it takes to do specific tasks.
-Measure 25- Harmonics one octave lower will have better sound. Or you could avoid harmonics, then the right hand can go faster. Each jump to prepare-produce the harmonic in that high register takes time, plus the sound is not worthwhile. If you want it the way it is, the tempo must be slow.
-There are pedal changes between sections, where you have written fermatas. I guess they can be as long as all these pedal changes need, right? We also need to muffle before starting the next sketch.
-Measure 59, harmonic should be one octave lower and played by the left hand, since the right hand is holding the metal tunning key to produce the glissandi. Same in measure 67.
-Measure 111, harmonic must me two octaves lower.
-Measure 114- Maybe a piu mosso there?
-Measure 124 and 128, double one octave lower the left hand note. The harmonics in right hand beginning measure 124 should be real notes. It´s not possible to combine harmonics and real notes withs such zig zag continuous melody, so I suggest to keep some only. I have to work out which few ones and let you know when we rehearse together.
-Measure 148 and 149, it´s not possible to muffle there the sixteenth notes.
-Measure 151, Meno mosso?
-Measures 177 to 180 need to simplify or take away some of the slaps, or play the passage slower. It´s too many jumps combining articulated notes and percussion if you want the passage to flow. Similar situation in the following measures such as 187, etc.
-Measure 187: second octave note, first beat, that thumb slap should be done with left hand just as the first one written at the beginning of that first beat in left hand.
-Measure 194, the f sharp in beat one and g in beat two need to be one octave higher.
Please let me know what you think so I can keep practicing with these ideas!

Big hug to both of you!

Humming bird picture: thanks to Mónica Aburto and her perpetuum mobile camara…

Leo 14skisser.pdf
Leo

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM HARP TEACHERS IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES

Mano_ttere

And some further advice from chemistry scientists about what works in our brains and why:

 

http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/2010/5/learning-and-teaching-strategies

 

I choose to combine  recommendationsby harp teachers in various countries with ideas from this very interesting article by Roald Hoffmann and Saundra Y. McGuire in American Scientist magazine (September-October 2010). I do so because even if it’s written from the perspective of teachers and students in chemistry, it reveals amazing facts about how old and new learning techniques function. It clearly explains how our minds focus on specific tasks in the endlessly fascinating process of learning. So my guess is that this should work fine with music too.

One of these learning strategies is to take notes by hand and rewrite them some hours later by hand, thus amplifying the content. This engages the mind in real time for the focusing on the task. Although we players don´’t take notes by hand in an instrument class, we could use this technique to memorize passages, since this process helps transferring information from short-term to long-term memory. I can’t help thinking also of the dear poets and composers whom I know, who write by hand for a better flow of thoughts, for a more organic tempo between brain and muscles involved in writing. Then, with time, they use the computer to clean, edit and/or simply print the final result.

Another suggestion is to explain the information to someone else, which reminds me of how much we learn as teachers while working with students. I remember also Lupita, a blind student in the Mexico City Conservatory, who was transcribing Bach’s Preludes and Inventions into Braille system. Some of us fellow students volunteered and helped her in the library, reading out loud to her from our visual language what  was happening in each measure of the score, hand by hand, taking care of fingerings and ties, dynamics and tempi, stem after stem, rhythm after rhythm. Now that I recall this, decades later; I figure that this experience really opened up a different channel in our brain for focusing.

A third interesting advice is to compare the information and our personal approach of what we learn, since often some schools and teachers give more importance to a method than to the final answers. I picture then how many different, individual kinds of hands, fingers and bodies we have and how each player regarding technique should find their own tools to play the instrument, get to their own way of handling the task of playing, both physically and musically. The authors of this article underline how important it is to explore alternative methods and how that will help you develop into an agile and flexible thinker. Very often the technical skills of musical education take over the decision making. I personally think that it is my responsibility as a teacher to  help students  learn how to become their own teachers and to take decisions on their own, once they learn to use proper tools. Just like responsible parents do with their children, preparing them to be independent.

Working in groups can be useful, although not in the case of a chemistry class as explained in the article, where students solve problems and formulas, but for us players, sharing ideas and playing for others in the musical framework.

Scheduling attainable goals is one more of the suggestions. I found it more applicable to a music class, a harp one in our case. When practicing madly does not give a satisfactory result, and the process turns out to be demoralizing, depressive or paralyzing, it’s time to stop and think about setting short and achievable goals, little by little. I have observed how students nowadays have gotten used to a fast and immediate life, and maybe have lost track or even the awareness of what patience is. I belong to a generation used to waiting for weeks for a letter to arrive from another continent, or how a long distance call had to be made through an operator and one had to wait long minutes or even hours for it. Things were done by hand in the kitchen, the clothing and many other aspects of daily life. So the time ran differently from nowadays. I have seen too many students complain about their instrument teachers when the music is not coming out properly, while at the same time they have no clue of what patience is and/or have no intention of working in slow small steps, repeating until the connection is established between brain and fingers. Developing this kind of patience in small portions builds up more confidence, a stronger motivation and the process will evolve intotools for bigger problems to be solved later with the same technique.

Every student learns differently, therefore talking about learning skills and process might be useful in a music class as well, so everyone knows how to perform cognitively in a better way.

McGuire asked a group of students in Louisiana State University about the difference between studying and learning. Some of them replied that studying is memorizing boring stuff and learning means acquiring insight about things you do care about. My question now is: what do YOU think?

My favorite part of the article relates to the use of humor and surprise to make students think in a new way, looking from a different perspective. Humor grabs attention, enforces an emotional environment that can help long-term memory while learning. Humor is a human factor that creates a bond between instructor and student. Humor is an exercise that needs training too. I highly recommend not being afraid of it and to place it in the tool box. It helped me to stop being a timid shy girl and convert into a stage person. Try it!

The last piece of advice is about the attention and expectation before a chemistry presentation. The audience is waiting to see the experiment. In our music world, this is the moment to state how much we love to play and how we can translate the many hours of practice into a live experience of awakening the senses of those who listen to what we are sharing with them.

You can see at the end of the article a triangle-shaped graphic with the labeled steps of the old and new versions of the learning process.

From bottom to top, the old version shows knowledge in the first place, followed by comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation at the end. The new version starts with remembering, followed by understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and CREATING at the end. What a joyful discovery!

Thanks to the participation of chemistry teachers giving us musicians some advice. That takes us back to creativity!

Finally, here is the advice from wonderful fellow harpists! Find the connections with your own brain and enjoy!

 

 

The most important things Marcel Tournier taught Elisabeth Fontan-Binoche*:

1.- How to practice

2.- How to listen to yourself while playing

 

Her own advice:

 

1.- You have to breath when you play.

2.- Count, be sure to count.

3.- More RH thumb in your melody.

4.- More LH bass.

5.- Sing.

 

*From The American Harp Journal, Vol. 22 Number 3, Summer 2010.

 

1—Relax your arms

2—Relax between each note

3—Count

4—Play as if singing the line, or like a stringed instrument.

5—Play evenly.

 

Doug Rioth, Principal Harpist-San Francisco Symphony Orchestra 

 

 

 

Hi Mercedes:

 

Here are our five important things!

 

1.-Loud and Slow are the best way to go Fast

 

2.-Patience, Practice and Perseverance are the “Three Ps” for my studio

 

3.-Practice means: short bits of phrases…two to four measures at a time, then repeat and repeat again!

 

4.-Three times correctly in the beginning of learning sets the foundation.

 

5.-Remember to tell the story with your music as you practice, don’t leave this part until the last

 

Hope this helps.

 

Hugs,

Alison

ALISON AUSTIN, Pacific Harp Institute, Seattle, Washington, USA.

1.       Practice, practice, practice. You have to believe, to have faith that the solution will come through everyday work: between your careful mind, ears and hands. It is a way of your own. No teacher can walk this way for you.

2.       Use your mind before you approach a piece, seeking for tonality changes, schemes of composition, repair points. Pay attention every minute!

3.       Observe your hands, know each finger of your hand and be conscious every second.

4.       Our prime material is sound. Never forgetit.

5.       To concentrate is to use every living sense you have and focus them at a single task in one single moment: vision, hearing, smelling, feeling, instinct and intellect must serve the text you are playing at that moment on stage.

CRISTINA BRAGA, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL.

————————————————————-

 

  1. Take the time to breathe. 
  2. Pay attention to all the details.
  3. Subdivide.
  4. Practice in small sections and then work on connecting the sections,
  5. “Hear” what you’re going to p lay before you start,
  6. Listen to yourself…..be your own critic,
  7. Be aware of the melodies and sing!
  8. Love what you are playing.

JANET PAULUS, USA-Mexico City.

—————————————————————-

1-      Be aware of your position, with high thumb, space enough as to hold a ping pong ball between the thumb and the other fingers.

2-      Be careful of your articulation and the quality of sound coming as a result of it.

3-      Think of your arms as those of a dancer, with looseness and no tension or extra weight on them.

4-      Work with no tension in your fingers and develop awareness on how they do their job.

5-      Organize your work and find a method. Stop when it’s time to correct something, find a solution.

6-      Play in front of others even if it’s not a concert and rehearse in front of friends before you play a recital.

7-      Accept that you will feel nervous on stage and learn how to deal with this instead try of trying to avoid it.

8-      Know how your visual memory works and analyze the music without looking at the score. Try to memorize at least one or two pieces and observe how you feel playing them by heart.

LISA VIGUIER, France-Sweden

You might want to complement these recommendations reading the interview with Marie Claire Jamet about the French Harp School. Camac Harp Seasons Newsletter, Autumn 2010.

 

And to make the story short here is one brief piece of advice from me:

HAVE FUN AND SHARE YOUR MUSIC MAKING WITH OTHERS!

Don’t be afraid of being wrong. That’s also a good way to learn if you open your ears and brain while becoming a better musician every day!

Mercedes Gómez