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HPSCHD-L  March 2017

HPSCHD-L March 2017

Subject:

Re: An alarming trend?

From:

Davitt MORONEY <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Harpsichords and Related Topics <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 14:00:55 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (243 lines)

I have been thinking about this for a couple of days and have come to the
conclusion that it's more complicated than at first appears.

The musical thoughts of any performer are essentially polyphonic, by which
I am not referring to the musical style of polyphony, but rather to the
fact that a lot happens at once (rather than sequentially).

Just as an exercise, I tried this morning to write down some of the guiding
thoughts that go consciously through my head -- very rapidly, of course --
as I play the first four measures of the "Aria" of the "Goldberg
Variations." It took me more than half an hour (and a text of nearly two
pages) to get down even a rough first approach to the things I like to have
in mind when performing those four measures as well as I would like to. So
the verbal communication covered two pages and took 30 minutes, but the
musical communication covers one line and takes less than ten seconds.

Musical intelligence really is on a quite different level from mere verbal
intelligence. The thoughts flash through the mind like in one of those
accelerated movies that shows you 1000 images in 60 seconds -- and even
that simile is wrong, because those movies happen sequentially, unless (as
with more modern film makers) they give us a split screen with several
images at once. (As with some of the faster sections of the 1982 Godfrey
Reggio and Philip Glass movie *Koyaanisqatsi*.)

The long-held myth that we  only use a small portion of our brain has been
fully debunked. I have the (utterly non scientific) feeling that whenever I
am playing -- and especially in a concert -- there are usually a great many
bits of my brain that are all  lighting up at once. It may be stressful
sometimes, but it's definitely about being fully alive.

Musical thought is not only very rapid and complex, but we need to be
thinking many of these very rapid and complex thoughts, all at the same
time. Trying to translate this process into words -- which cannot be done
polyphonically but must be written down sequentially, monophonically -- is
a frustratingly time-consuming exercise. And the result, I confess, looks
somewhat silly. "All that, just for the first four measures?" Well, yes,
all that and quite a lot more as well. If I don't go into the real details,
I don't get down what I'm in fact controlling and "doing" as I play; and if
I do try and go into the details, then it comes out looking like an
extraordinary surfeit of micro-management.

Performance is partly about this wonderful skill of micro-management, at
very high speed, of very many musical things all at once. Words and the
language of verbal grammar and syntax seem such a truly inadequate medium
for encapsulating that amazingly complex skill.

When I teach masterclasses, I often get to the end of a session with a
player who seems to have improved and learned something, but I find that I
am left with the disappointing impression that I've communicated only about
2% of what actually goes on in my mind as I play the piece.

Some teachers prefer to teach with two keyboards in the room, side by side,
one for the student and one for the teacher, and to use as few words as
possible. It is teaching by hands and fingers rather than by translating
into another medium, words. If  we can teach the language of music through
just the language of music, we can end up teaching some rather different
things, but also not teaching others... I think much modern musical
pedagogy has a tendency to become too verbal.

The proof: this long message!

Best wishes,
DM




*Davitt Moroney​​Professor Emeritus Department of Music*

*Morrison Hall*


*​University of California, Berkeley​CA 94720-1200*

On Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 10:42 AM, J. Claudio Di Veroli <[log in to unmask]>
wrote:

> This list is about the main harpsichord topics: making, playing,
> temperament
> (I might add history, regulation, decoration and so on, but let us keep
> this
> simple).
>
>
>
> Everything is important, of course. We tell beginners and students that the
> purpose of playing harpsichord music on the harpsichord (and not on a
> modern
> piano) is to reproduce a performance as much as possible in agreement with
> the score and with what we know the composer expected to hear. We look for
> the right sound and a playing style consistent with both the instrument and
> the score.
>
>
>
> With these basics in mind, the three topics I listed above can be ranked,
> IMHO of course, as follows:
>
>
>
>             1st. Playing
>
>
>
>             2nd. Making
>
>
>
>             3rd. Temperament
>
>
>
> Let us check 1 vs 2: I prefer a stylish performer on a 2nd rate harpsichord
> that a performer who disregards the composer's style yet plays on an
> excellent instrument.
>
> As for 2 vs 3 it should also be obvious. What sounds best: a very good
> harpsichord tuned to a temperament that is not the best choice for the
> music, or a poor harpsichord with the perfect temperament choice?
>
>
>
> So I have always been perplexed by the fact that this list discusses mostly
> Making, less so Temperaments and even less so Playing.
>
>
>
> Until recently my impression was that simply many of our fellow members
> were
> Makers, and therefore the priority makes sense for them.
>
>
>
> Then I enrolled in the Harpsichord ... Facebook group and, to my surprise,
> Making is also prevalent by an huge margin.
>
>
>
> Again, this may be subjective: perhaps makers are much more interested in
> having their wares showing in lists than players!
>
>
>
> I have yet a THIRD statistics. My books. The one on Temperaments (the most
> expensive one) outsells all the others put together. Well, maybe this book
> is good and the others are bad, or perhaps it is more unique and the others
> have more competitors?
>
>
>
> However, I have yet a FOURTH statistics. From my "Academia.edu" list of
> about 30 papers of mine, which I mostly uploaded during the first few
> months
> of 2016. People browsing the web go there for the paper's title, and
> therefore the number of "hits" is unrelated to the paper's quality or the
> final opinion of the reader. The number just shows how much the average
> harpsichordist browising the web is interested in different harpsichord
> topics. I find the numbers  VERY surprising:
>
>
>
> - Temperament: A paper of mine about Vallotti's temperament (essentially
> just showing that Vallotti is a good average of Werckmeister's circular
> temperaments) in its original English version has had dozens of readers,
> and
> the Italian version has had several hundred readers. Other papers of mine
> on
> temperament and stringing also have good hit statistics.
>
>
>
> - My papers on playing style fare consistently worse, much worse! For
> example one in Italian about "L'Art de Toucher le Clavecin" and its
> implications when performing F. Couperin, uploaded last November and
> referred to by the organisers of the Italy-wide "300 years of L'Art de
> Toucher" macro-event (with scores of recitals and conferences all around
> Italy but hardly any paper published), in four months got only 8 hits.
>
>
>
> - My selection from Haney's "Harpsichord" magazine, advertised here in
> HPSCHD-L, got just ONE hit!
>
>
>
> From the above, needless to say, we cannot infer that harpsichord players
> are more interested in harpsichord making and tuning than in playing: this
> is highly unlikely.
>
> My conclusion is simply that harpsichordists are not much interested in
> reading at all. And indeed I have already commented this alarming trend I
> see among young harpsichordists: they play baroque keyboard music on the
> harpsichord just because they like the instrument's sound, but to follow
> the
> historical style (articulation, ornamentation, rhythmic alterations and so
> on) is very low on their priorities.
>
>
>
> I hope to be wrong somewhere, because so far my impression is that, lately
> we seem to have lost sight of the most important matter in the harpsichord
> revival: how we play it.
>
>
>
> Best Regards
>
>
>
> CDV
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> ---
> This email has been checked for viruses by Avast antivirus software.
> https://www.avast.com/antivirus
>
> ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
> Note:  opinions  expressed on HPSCHD-L are those of the  individual con-
> tributors and not necessarily  those of the list owners  nor of the Uni-
> versity of Iowa.  For a brief  summary of list  commands, send mail to
> [log in to unmask]  saying  HELP .
> ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
>

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Note:  opinions  expressed on HPSCHD-L are those of the  individual con-
tributors and not necessarily  those of the list owners  nor of the Uni-
versity of Iowa.  For a brief  summary of list  commands, send mail to
[log in to unmask]  saying  HELP .
::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

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