Sunday, December 30, 2007

So can you teach Improvisation??

In my opinion, the answer is a resounding yes!!

First of all, what is improvisation? Well, it's composition, but without writing it down. Generally, most people would agree that composition can be taught, so if composition can be taught, why not improv?

Assuming it can be taught, what does it mean to teach improvisation. Well, like anything else in music, there are a million different things to look at. There's form & harmony & theory. Then there's styles, and then there's story-telling. On top of that, you can look at things melodically, harmonically, orchestration-ally.

For me, I'm interested in styles mostly. So how do you understand one? Well, first you have to look at the scales used in the styles. Take the classical style for example, generally it uses either the Major scale or the Minor scale. So first there's this world of scales ... then from there, you have your world of harmony and triads based upon those scales. Almost every style has some kind of tension & resolution, so you can look for that as well.

Today, working with Hillary, we did a little bit with folk music (she asked if we could work on styles and I was a little thrown off... so when in doubt, I thought the pentatonic scale would work - after all, it's applicable cross-style, and the blues scale is a modified pentatonic, so that covers blues & rock as well as folk music). First we went over the basic scale, the notes, what degrees of a classical scale they would be (In this case, EGABDE - 134571). From there we went into story-telling I started the story with a one liner about an Indian (native american) chief, followed by a musical line. She then followed and we went on, basically ad libbing for a few more turns.

I hadn't really though of the story telling approach, but with purely instrumental music, it makes a ton of sense (I think) & it's basically what we do when playing classical music (part of what draws me so much to Steven Isserlis and his playing is his focus on the composer and the story they tell through the piece).

Any thoughts? anyone worked on improv. here, either on your own, or with teacher? If so, what did you do and how effective did you think it was?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Back to the Meaning of Cello!!

I played with my old hs Orchestra again tonight. I love doing it. For one thing, the music is almost always fun, and for two, I absolutely love Mr. O, he's such an amazing person. But on top of that, it reminds me of what I'm not. Especially when I get to see my old friends from high school & where they're at and how they've progressed and what they've studied. It makes me value this whole classical music thing again in a way that I don't really get to value it at Manhattanville. Recently, I've had some debate over whether or not I wanted to take time off from school, and also whether or not I actually want to do grad school. Being back home & playing gain is making me feel like I'd be crazy to take time off or not do grad school. I have so much freaking work to do though. Time to start now!!

So back to the meaning of cello. I started practicing again (finally) after seeing Steven Isserlis (I had been not playing for about a month due to all sorts of problems & being burnt out and stuff of that sort ... no complaints there; I needed to develop in other ways, and I'm so glad to have done that.) but anyway, I finaly started a bit of actual practice tonight (with scales & such. i'm finding the challenge is to focus and not lose ight of the music and sound in favor of technique. The challenge is also to play relaxed & constantly find new ways to do this. I know I need to do some callous building. I've noticed with my 3rd and 4th fingers, I don't always put the previous finger down when it would be beneficial. I also noticed that I can use the other fingers to control vibrato in a way that I haven't really done before. I also noticed that even when I'm concentrating on the left hand, my bow still has to move... I have a bad habit of stopping it, which creates tension and interrupt the music ... it seems the trick is to think about both simultaneously, and how they relate (kind of like listening to a symphony, or heavy metal - you want to be able to hear all the parts and more importantly how they all go together)

Regarding the right hand, I've noticed that I have a tendency to remove my 2nd and 3rd fingers, which serves no purpose, creates tension and reduces the tone quality of the sound. I find with both hands, I really need to think of all 4 fingers together. Also I want to quote Isserlis (not verbatim) that on a string instrument, the bow is the primary method of expression - so true, it really creates almost everything. The left hand just allows for some tweaking. I've also noticed, that after seeing Isserlis, my left hand techniques reverted more to what it used to be (getting the tapping noises on the fingerboard, and releasing my fingers in order to stop notes - instead of pressing). It's really inspiring. Once I get back in shape & get some more vibrato control, I'll finally feel that my technique is truly where it could be and that I'm actually fulfilling my potential (which so far, I've never done at school, with the possible exception of my recital).

On another note, Kodaly is amazing (Elgar too, but Kodaly really truly makes me want to push my technique further) & I can hear music more and more in ways that I couldn't before - it's so inspiring.... can't wait for the xmas eve masses. Those should be fun!!

Ostrofsky gave me a copy of the Beaux Arts doing the Dumky Trio and of his trio (when it still existed) doing Dvorak's F Minor - man did they have energy!! (and this is off the crappy internal iMac speaker). I can't wait to put that on my ipod.

Finally, I'm beginning to update my myspace ( a bit more and hope to have a few more recordings, plus some vids up there by the end of the break. Actually... last finally, I'm getting a new case: I'm so excited, especially since mine's been giving me trouble/falling apart lately.

That's all for now... might go practice some more (or go to sleep since it's 2...)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ugh, This irritates me!!

So a while ago, this kid posted on the ICS about learning cello... don't remember the original post much, but a lot of ppl shot him down for trying to teach himself/learn without a teacher (and don't get me wrong, I am always in favor of taking lessons and learning from someone who can play an instrument well)

Anyway, this kid comes back and posts this video ( going "hah, I told you I could learn" and one of the first posts in response calls what he did noise (as opposed to music) & puts him down for not learning the cello ... personally I found that really irritating.

Not only did I think what he did was really cool (musically & technically) ... I'm also not sure I could do the same (probably with a bit of work I can - just need to figure out all the things he did... plus what the source material is)... and finally, just cuz you're not into a certain type of music doesn't give you a right to put down others for doing things different from you... certainly not in a setting like that... I dunno, anyone have thoughts on the video, or the posting??

By the way, Eric Edberg recently posted some improv stuff that I haven't had a chance to check out too much, but if you haven't I suggest you do. He's a very interesting guy. Greg Sandow also has some interesting stuff...

Anyway, school's out, so I'm starting to get back in the swing of things... I saw 3 concerts last week... planning to write those up soon.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Recent Happenings

1. 2 Concerts - Orchestra & Small ensembles... After the small ensembles concert, someone added me as a friend on facebook & complimented my playing... very strong possibility we'll be forming a quartet next semester!
2. One of my teachers wrote a piece for a voice student here & asked me to play the cello part!!
3. This same teacher also asked me to come up with a working title for a piece that she will write for me ... I'm thinking of doing something with Loki, or maybe turning it into a bigger idea... like a whole mythology suite... or even different... I'm thinking of commissioning one piece from each mythology from a different composer - that would be neat!!
4. I got hired to play Amahl & the Night Visitors with my old high school in february
5. I'm done with Ear Training!! NO MORE SOLFEGE!!!! ... I love ear training & and do it all the time on my own... I *hate* solfege.

That's all for now... just trying to get through the end of the semester... it finishes with a Trans-Siberian Orchestra Concert... can't wait... anyway, need to go get food..