Sing. Paint. Dance. (Part 2)

Sing. Paint. Dance. (Part 2)

Sing. Paint. Dance. (Part 2)

Yes, we can place the bow one inch above the bridge and play various phrases for the purposes of mapping and sensory awareness. We can also take one step back and go about it from a different angle. As we listen to repertoire we can place a brush to canvas or a pencil to paper and emulate phrase length with our hands. We can isolate passages in the score and literally paint them. Feel the duration of notes, their inner lives, through your brush. See the color sustain or fade. Watch the brush as it moves up and down according to contour. For me, although away from the cello, this type of association is the most direct connection to gesture.

Let’s be clear, this does not instantly allow for flawless execution. One must be doing instrumental work in concert with this work so as to connect the sensations and associative threads. But what it creates is freedom – meaning the source of feelings, both physical and emotional is unencumbered.

Another use of painting perhaps goes with saying – COLOR. I so often return to the Chagall exhibit last year at LACMA. It was a phenomenal exploration of his costumes and paintings in association with works of Stravinsky, Mozart, Ravel among others. His art has an almost symbiotic relationship to music. In fact a well known photo of Chagall with Rostropovich often comes to mind as I think of the kind of intimate connection he had to vibration, energy, rhythm and symbolic undercurrents.

He wrote of color’s living energy and spoke of it as a language of expression unto itself. One of my favorite quotes in relationship to Chagall and his work is by Guy Deutscher.

It reads : As strange as it may sound, our experience of a Chagall painting actually depends to some extent on whether our language has a word for blue.

And for me this interwoven relationship is always present with cello playing. Chagall himself wrote : All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites. Isn’t that a big YES for sound folks?!

So, painting gives us a fantastic excuse to be our own Chagall. To give life to notes as we hear them in the form of vibrant blues, yellows and greens. To explore non verbal expressions of sound that connect viscerally to our imagination and sense of wonder. When we expand this practice internally we are giving ourselves permission to take the risk to find this color wheel at the instrument.

And this non instrumental exploration should engage our whole bodies, should it not? Our legs have been dormant thus far. So, get up and move! There are so many possibilities with dance and music making. Dance can be the ultimate reflection of pulse, motion, and voicing. It can lend itself towards the physical choreography needed to communicate large gestures and characters and can simply encourage release, and FUN!

For me it is about the process of enlivening sound. Dance takes pulse and turns strong and weak beats into three-dimensional movements. It can also help to encourage tremendous fluidity in works that are deeply benefitted by long phrase length. Just imagine an outstretched arm moving in a circular manner almost pulling a phrase through space and time with ease. Or in Webern, shorter gestures being complete physical expressions unto themselves. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is endlessly inspiring on this front. I would encourage anyone to hang out with her work and simply allow yourself to be captivated.

So, I officially only used the word cello once or twice in an entire blog about cello playing. Bring it all back to the instrument, it will thank you. Your musicianship will expand and your presence will be enriched by new sources of inspiration. And maybe in the end, we can connect even more deeply to those with whom we share.

About the Author:

Rebecca Merblum

Rebecca Merblum, originally from Connecticut, has been dedicated to chamber music throughout her life as a cellist.  The Hartt School gave life to this connection as Rebecca worked with the Emerson String Quartet and Mitchell Stern (American String Quartet). It continued through her studies at the Cleveland Institute and the New England Conservatory where she went on to earn her Bachelor and Masters Degrees respectively.

Rebecca joined the Artaria Quartet for the 2016-2017 season. This was a renaissance of sorts given her history with the Azmari Quartet. As a founding member of the Azmari Quartet, she participated in the Graduate Quartet Residency at Northern Illinois University under the tutelage of the Vermeer Quartet. The Azmari Quartet served as the Corbett String Quartet in Residence at Northern Kentucky University from 2004-2009.

During the 30th anniversary season with the Artaria Quartet, Rebecca enjoyed collaborations with Andres and Roberto Diaz, Geoff Nuttal and several former members of the Artaria Quartet family. The quartet performed throughout the Twin Cities while remaining dedicated to nurturing the growth of students at the Artaria Chamber Music School and Stringwood, the summer festival directed by the ensemble.

Rebecca also enjoyed frequent appearances in the cello section of the St Paul Chamber Orchestra during her first season in Minnesota. This included a recording project with the ensemble in the Spring of 2017. She has continued to perform regularly with the Grammy Award winning SPCO and toured with the ensemble in the Spring of 2018 as well

Ms. Merblum also enjoys performing engagements with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and has performed in the past as a guest artist with the Salastina Chamber Music Series, Sundays at LACMA, the Green Umbrella Series (Los Angeles Philharmonic) and Classical Encounters. Additional chamber music performances involved collaborations with Michele Zukovsky (LAPhil), Martin Chalifour (LAPhil), Ronald Leonard (LAPhil), Andrew Schulman (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra) and Panic Group, an ensemble dedicated to the presentation of new music. Rebecca was also a substitute with the both LAPhil and LAOpera from 2010-2016. Several film soundtracks also feature Ms. Merblum.

A dedicated teacher, Rebecca served as the Chair of the String Department at the Pasadena Conservatory where she was a member of the cello and chamber music faculties. Her students have gained recognition in numerous competitions and festivals including the Piatigorsky International Festival.