music

The Bach Suites, A Deep Mirror — by Lluís Claret

I am posting today some thoughts regarding my upcoming performance of all the cello suites of Bach, in Barcelona, next October 6th. A "3 hour conversation with Bach," by which I mean playing all the 6 Suites in one evening, is a rare privilege, and at the same time, an opportunity to devote months of work gazing, probing, until their is transparency in this greatest of all music given to us by the Kantor of Leipzig. In this period of reflection, the performer's goal and intention should be to imbue his own spirit into the depths of the pieces, and become inspired and elevated by this music of such extraordinary dimensions. After a concert a few years ago, somebody who had never heard my playing said,  "I can feel the [...]

How Music and Cello Changed My Life — by Nathan Chan

Hey CelloBello readers! My name is Nathan Chan and I’ve been playing the cello for over 17 years. Throughout this time period, my relationship with the cello has been an ongoing evolution in the way I see music as an incredibly powerful tool of expression and creativity. What started as a hobby in the beginning of my musical learning initially evolved into a battle for technical mastery and now has begun to blossom as a freeing medium for spontaneity and exploration. As a child born and raised in the 90s, my parents were very supportive of me. My father, a Hong-Kong born cardiologist who emigrated to the states for college, represented the discipline and detail-oriented leader in my early life. My mother, a Chinese-Canadian who is a Juilliard-educated pianist, was [...]

Dave — by Arnold Steinhardt

David Soyer, cellist and founding member of the Guarneri String Quartet, passed away on February 26, 2010—one day after his 86th birthday. Michael Tree, violist, and John Dalley and I, violinists, the other founding members, played in the quartet with Dave for almost forty years and we knew him for close to fifty. Peter Wiley, a former cello student of Dave’s and his successor in the Guarneri Quartet, has known him for easily forty years. Given the close musical and personal relationship that we had with Dave stretching over decades, it is hard to believe that he is no longer with us. Dave and I first met at the Marlboro Music School—quite literally at a rehearsal for Brahms B Major Piano Trio. In the course of that two-hour rehearsal, I [...]

Enharmonically Equivalent: Greetings from Kingston! — by Avery Waite

What a month is has been! It has been an absolute whirlwind of teaching, cultural discoveries, new friends, new landscapes and rainy October downpours. Despite the consuming teaching schedule, I've been able to absorb different aspects of Jamaica bit by bit. From the breathtaking views of mountainous junglescapes, to stunning sunsets, to torrential thunderstorms, the natural beauty is both staggeringly vivid and refreshingly wild. But, it's a place of extremes and contradictions. The downtown area in which I teach five days a week is definitely tough and worlds away from the well-guarded mansions that dot the mountain-sides above the city. One of the schools, St. Andrews Technical High School, is bordered by a maximum security prison and several violent ghettos. There is a constant turf war in these neighborhoods as rival gang-lords called "dons" [...]

The Swan — by Arnold Steinhardt

When I was eleven years old, my violin teacher assigned me The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns. I had no idea that The Swan was a famous cello solo or that it was part of a much larger work, “The Carnival of the Animals.” I had never even heard of its composer, Saint-Saëns, or seen his name in print before. I wondered why there was a funny line between his two-word last name and what could be the purpose of those strange dots perched on top. And was Saint-Saëns actually a saint? I thought that The Swan was very pretty and probably associated the music’s title with its general mood in some vague way. As a child, I often saw swans gliding regally through the water on the lake near where [...]

A Celebration of Janos Starker in Memories & Music: Toronto, July 27-28

A Message from Gabriella Starker It is overwhelming as well as comforting to read and hear the outpouring of respect, memories and emotion since my father left us. I am still emotionally unable to look at all of it. I know I will eventually. My father was my inspiration, my mentor, my strongest and most demanding critic and my great friend. I know that most of you would say exactly the same. His devotion and passion for those he taught and inspired was all encompassing. Nothing gave him greater joy or pleasure. Personally I am reeling from the loss of my daddy, even the detail that he was the last family I could speak with in Hungarian when it came to the basics and not the intellectual pursuits. Life without [...]

THINKING IN A NEW WAY—Overcoming Habits (Part 6 of 6): Putting it All Together — by Selma Gokcen

"You get away from all your old preconceived ideas because you are getting away from your old habits." —F.M. Alexander We come to the end of this six part series, having touched on various aspects of cello technique, bringing the principles of the Alexander Technique to the most basic work of balancing the instrument, then using the bow and the left hand. Once this basic work is accomplished, the next stage is to take a new piece of music and to begin to work with it for a few minutes each day.  Instead of aiming for the goal—which is to get the piece learned and which can produce all sorts of accompanying reactions—we can take away the goal entirely, and use those few minutes while we work on the piece [...]

THINKING IN A NEW WAY—Overcoming Habits (Part 2 of 6): Finding our Source of Power — by Selma Gokcen

"You translate everything, whether physical, mental or spiritual, into muscular tension.” It is not the degree of ‘willing’ or ‘trying’, but the way in which the energy is directed, that is going to make the ‘willing’ or ‘trying’ effective.” The stiffened necks and arms of people of today are outward signs of the imperfect development and lack of coordination of the muscular system of the back and spine. —F.M. Alexander Any athlete, and I include musicians here, who is aiming for the top level of performance is by definition working to improve their coordination, timing, balance and accuracy of movement. But musicians have another reason for wanting a reliable 'instrument' (I refer here to their own body, not their musical instrument). We want the freedom to immerse ourselves in the [...]

THINKING IN A NEW WAY—Overcoming Habits (Part 1 of 6): The Value of Quietness — by Selma Gokcen

We can overcome habits of a lifetime in a few minutes if we learn to use our brains. —F.M. Alexander The obstacle is the path. –Zen proverb I offer this six part series of articles to demonstrate how I work with the Alexander Technique to help musicians to overcome deeply ingrained habits. If a quick and easy fix is what is wanted, then the reader won't find it here. The process as I see it is multi-layered—the same habits that affect our cello playing and music-making are also our habits of life, the way we perceive, react and behave, moment to moment. Such observations are at the heart of Alexander's work. Albeit with the help of a good teacher the process of unlearning habits can be easier, there are no shortcuts. [...]

About Those New Year’s Bow Resolutions…. — by Wayne Burak

New Year’s resolutions get significant attention right about now! Whether the subject is your living space, personal finance, diet, or exercise, every topic seems to be on the table. But what about the personal needs of your favorite bow—you know, the one that plays beside you in all of your performances and rehearsals? The one you have promised your eternal love and gratitude to, if it helps you get through the nearly impossible piece or gig? Hmm, did I think that, you ask? Bows have long memories, and yes at some point, you did promise. That is why your bow demands attention now!  Think of it like dinner, a movie, and a new outfit for your bow. But before we talk more of bows, let’s assume that you have already handled [...]

A Cellist in Kabul (Part 2) — by Avery Waite

After three months in Kabul I feel ready to write honestly about the challenges of teaching here. The thing is it’s almost impossible to separate everything about Afghanistan from my experience as a music teacher; it’s just such a complicated and bewildering place. And the weirdest thing is that the longer I’m here, the harder it is to write about my life. I suppose the overall experience itself is so consuming that I can’t properly distance myself enough to document it. But I will try my best to cover the challenges that I face on a daily basis. The most daunting challenge is teaching in a difficult foreign language. What I didn’t realize at first is that the language of music pedagogy is tremendously complex. It can be very simple [...]

When the Music Stops — by Brant Taylor

For those of us for whom a musicians’ work stoppage in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was something we’d read about in histories of the orchestra but had never experienced in real life, the e-mail message we received last Saturday was a bit of a shock: we were on strike. Much of the "what" and "how" has already been disclosed elsewhere by both sides, so I won't go over that here. Fortunately, the work stoppage was short-lived—about 48 hours—and the musicians have now ratified a new contract that will allow our season to proceed without further disruption. Any orchestral musician who has been through tough negotiations will agree that they’re strange times.  An orchestral organization is tiny compared to the global business corporations in the for-profit world that deal with large [...]

What You Did This Summer — by Brant Taylor

We are now in mid-summer, and countless musicians of all types are at various summer music festivals and camps engaging in musical activities that likely differ in some way from the artistic lives they lead during the rest of the year.  Whether a student or a professional, a change of scenery and the opportunity to meet and collaborate with new colleagues has many benefits.  Certainly, for those of us who spend the academic year engaged primarily in one musical activity, summer is a valuable opportunity to do something different. For professional musicians, the tendency to be defined by their "main" musical job or pursuit is strong.  A quick look down the faculty roster of the Mimir Chamber Music Festival, from which I just returned to my full-time position with the [...]

The Tools of Embodied Music® – the Feldenkrais Method® for Musicians (Part 2)

The tools of Embodied Music® – the Feldenkrais Method® for Musicians: 1.    Movement 2.    Awareness 3.    Reeducation of perception 4.    Learning to change habits 5.    Learning to use the whole self in playing   Movement Dr. Feldenkrais used to say: “Movement is life. Without it, life is inconceivable. Improve your movement and you improve your life”. One can use the word “music” instead of “life” and the meaning will be as true. Playing an instrument is a succession of movements. The properties of movement are the properties of sound as well: time, space, weight, rhythmical impulse, gesture, momentum towards an action, the process of speeding gradually and slowing down gradually.  Improving these properties in our movements will make it easier to achieve the sounds we want. We derive meaning from [...]

The Tools of Embodied Music® – the Feldenkrais Method for Musicians (Part 1)

  Before discussing what the Feldenkrais Method is and how it can help you make better music without injuring yourself, let me start by asking a few questions. Have you ever observed how very young children respond to music – with rhythmic movement, with sounds, with all sorts of other movements? Do you remember how you felt as a child, when you wanted to make music? Do you ever feel something akin to ecstasy when you hear a piece of a performance you really love? Is the sense of ecstasy only a thought or is it a feeling also in your body? Where in yourself do you feel it? Do you feel the rhythm? Can you feel that sometimes music makes you feel light and sometimes heavy, sometimes it is [...]