Monday, April 29, 2013

Into the Mind

Just a quick note and update on memorization.

I have noticed that my mind has begun to work more efficiently while I practice. Not only do I seem to organize passages in a manner more conducive to remembering them but I do so without actually thinking too much about it. This result was apparent after I practiced Popper's Gavotte No. 2 in D major for two days. I broke the ABA into subsequent themes and practiced them in turn of appearance. That's is now a given for any work I do for memorizing. What's more is that I now seem to be recognizing other building blocks of the music as an aide in remembering the music.

The Gavotte, granted, was a piece I worked on as a 14 or 15 year old, and then taught to one other student about three years ago, but that is really insignificant since I don't play anything from memory just by hearing it or practicing it without the intention of memorizing it. Or at least, I hadn't played anything from memory as a consequence of merely playing it many times. Now, with some focused thought I retain ever larger and larger pieces of music for later recollection.

Now that I have been practicing with the organized thoughts of a memorizer the process is becoming more automatic and less a frantic battle to keep a few short phrases in my fingers. It is interesting how honing this skill literally gets easier with a more organized approach and continues on organizing the organized, an so on and so forth. It's building on itself. I can live with that.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The History of Violin Playing: Bowing and Signs

Recently I have been perusing the monument on the history of the violin by David Boyden titled The History of Violin Playing from Its Origins until 1761. Since the history of violoncello is inextricably bound to that of the violin it provides excellent material for learning more about the way in which the cello developed as well. The examples given for treatment of ornaments and bow strokes are also valuable and give well thought out insights into their usages in those days, albeit, for the most part, necessarily succinct.

As I was skimming the pages on bowing I ran into the origins of the signs used to denote a down-bow and an up-bow. Here is an extract quoted from page 262.

"Terms and abbreviations fro down-bow and up-bow are as follows:

                         Down-bow              Up-bow
Italy                  T (tirare)                  P (pontare)
Germany          N (Niederzug)          A (Aufzug)
England            d (down)                  u (up)
France (usual)   T (tiré)                     P (poussé)
France (Muffat) |                               v
                          n (nobilis)                v (vilis)

Muffat's first usage is his normal one. The 'n' and 'v' are not really bowing signs; they stand for 'good' (stressed) and 'bad' (unstressed) notes, normally played with down-bow and up-bow, respectively. His (|), a vertical stroke, is very confusing for down-bow, because he gives the same sign for detachment (staccato). Any connexion between 'n' and 'v' and the modern signs...for down-bow and up-bow, is apparently fortuitous."

New students look at me suspiciously when I reveal to them that the sign for down bow looks like a square 'n' with a really thick top and a 'v' for up bow. Many invariably say that they should be just the reverse. Therefore, this excerpt caught my attention and is certainly a plausible explanation as to why the down and up bow signs have become what they are today.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Copyright and Herbert

I read more about Victor Herbert after that previous post and found some intriguing information about him. This time not about music that he wrote but something far more important for the protecting the composer's hard work. If one can sell the music that one writes it would be a shame not to get paid for all the copies being sold.

Yes, Mr. Herbert was not only a gifted cellist sought after by the Metropolitan Opera as principal cellist and a prolific composer--2 operas, 43 operettas, numerous orchestral works, 9 pieces for cello and compositions for other instruments including violin and piano-but also a very good public speaker.

He founded the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers and led the way for copyright protection of musical compositions. Apparently his Irish charm--Yes, he retained that lilting Irish accent that no mere mortal can resist--was as useful in his lobbying efforts as his superb oral skills were.