Sound

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 2): An Interview with Steven Doane — by Aron Zelkowicz

My first live encounter with a Britten suite was an in-your-face experience.  Steven Doane played the First Suite, Op. 72 as a “dry run” for a group of students as we crammed into an Eastman studio with barely enough floor space to not get poked with an upbow.  Mr. Doane’s association with the piece has only grown, leading to a brand new recording of the complete suites to be released this year.  I asked Mr. Doane about his thoughts and experiences playing this demanding work over the years. Do you remember the occasion of learning the Britten First Suite for the first time? It’s a piece that I discovered late - I was in my mid thirties when I started working on it, and it was revelatory.  It was an [...]

Exploring Beethoven 5th, Variation One — by Jonathan Pegis

Continuing our discussion of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, let us examine the first variation. As I did with the theme, I will first talk about the technical challenges of this excerpt and then look at the musical challenges.  First of all, it is very important that you play this excerpt in the exact same tempo that you played the theme.  A common mistake is to play this variation much faster than the theme simply because of that long first down bow.  One trick that helps is when you finish the theme keep counting the quarter note rests at the end of measure  10, and then count off the two quarter note rests in measure 49.  (Almost like you were making a cut!)  You can do the same thing at the end [...]

That Sound — by Selma Gokcen

"Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other in the integration of the human being because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the Soul on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the Soul of him who is rightly educated truly graceful."  – Plato I wonder whether most of us, performers and listeners alike, fall in love with the sound of an instrument before we even know how and why it has such an effect upon us. The primacy of sound—its essential fascination—indicates a deep internal need for the connection to life, first of all in the womb where the heartbeat of the mother is heard, then after birth as the newborn is attuned to the sound of its mother’s voice, and [...]

Learning Through Listening — by Yeesun Kim

The other day in my studio class, an excellent question was brought up by one of the students.  How do we use the recordings of artists for study purposes? What is the right way and amount to listen to these recordings? How much imitation is acceptable? Can it be somehow detrimental? We had a wonderful discussion where everyone chimed in to share their experiences and thoughts about this question. It is a very important issue to be thinking about, considering how much easier it is to be downloading recordings than attending concerts these days. There are so many ways to collect many different versions of a piece one is interested in. Also, we can listen to it as many times and at any time of the day as we please. [...]

Sound Designer — by Jeffrey Zeigler

As we continue our discussion about the various ways to integrate a sophisticated approach to sound design, there is one point that I would like to make before we get to far into the equipment nitty-gritty. That is of the need for your own sound designer. I think that the person in this role has both the most important as well as the most unsung job in a given concert. Important because they have complete responsibility for how you actually will sound in the hall. You may play wonderfully, but it could all be for nothing if, for example, the sound person has set you up to sound brash and tinny. But I also say unsung because the audience will only see them as the person standing at the mixing [...]

Searching For One’s Cello Voice — by Bonnie Hampton

It is a remarkable thing that just as our vibratos show our  individual expression, so ultimately does our “cello voice” as we develop our sound with the bow on the cello. What are the elements which make up this search? It is a given that we can’t make a beautiful sound unless our bow arms are free and we are finding our energies all the way from the back, with none to the various joints or muscles adding physical tension or tightness.  We need to have in our imagination, the qualities of sound we respond to. Perhaps we have heard a wonderful cellist who has inspired us, or perhaps there is a tone quality in our inner ear which we strive for. We are so fortunate,  the cello is capable [...]

“Which Hand Do You Hear?” — by Bonnie Hampton

When Paul Katz invited me to participate in the “CelloBello” Blog, I was intrigued and immediately saw his idea of a free exchange of cellists sharing their experiences, exploring ideas together and just being in contact as a larger community.  As cellists,we have a rich heritage and spirit and we certainly love that instrument a great deal.
  Otherwise, why would we carry it all over the world! There is so much to explore, but one thing which I find an endless investigation is the whole use of the bow.  Of course, all the issues of the left hand are immediate.  We play the notes.  Expressively, our uses of vibratos are part of our individual “voice,” but while one might call the work of the left hand, our craft, how we [...]

Tour Musings — by Alisa Weilerstein

I'm now a few days removed from one of the most exhilarating—and definitely the longest—tours of my life.  I've grown accustomed to playing a different concerto every week, sometimes with a recital thrown in here and there.  But I can't remember the last time I actually played only one piece for three weeks straight.  However, that's exactly what I did in the last week of March and first two weeks of April; I played Shostakovich 1st Concerto fifteen times across the US with the St Petersburg Philharmonic and Yuri Temirkanov. I've had so many thoughts about this tour and am struggling to consolidate them into a coherent blog entry.  I have to start by saying what an incredible musical and educational experience it was for me.  There are players in [...]

Doing More with Less — by Brant Taylor

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Havana, Cuba, accompanying a jazz band that was invited to perform at the Havana International Jazz Festival.  Considered a “cultural exchange,” the trip was approved by the U. S. Department of the Treasury and we made the short flight to Havana from Miami. (Because our embargo is a financial one, the U.S. Treasury oversees all travel between the U.S. and Cuba.  A full report on my impressions of Havana or on the 50 years of economic strangulation the Cuban people have experienced is far outside the scope and purpose of this space!) Among many other activities, we visited Havana’s Amadeo Roldan Conservatory, which teaches music to high school students.  While I am aware that Cuba has a vibrant, colorful musical tradition and [...]

Raising Your Self-Awareness — by Brandon Vamos

I recently worked with a student preparing a Bach suite for his recital. In his lesson, he was struggling with the many challenges one faces when playing Bach. A week later he performed the entire suite in studio class and I was taken aback by the dramatic improvement. He played the work with great poise, clarity, and a much higher level of solidity and intonation. I was curious about this sudden jump in playing level and asked him what his focus had been during that weeks’ preparation. His answer was that he had become much more self-aware and objective of his playing. He had made a conscious effort to sit back and get a true sense of what was coming from his instrument. The result? He was better able to [...]

To Mic, or Not to Mic — by Jeffrey Zeigler

I must admit that I myself am relatively new to the use of sound design. Previous to joining Kronos I had only dabbled here and there, and even then only in small amounts. Like so many cellists that graduate from conservatory, it really wasn’t something that I encountered very much except in specific 20th century works that required its use. In fact, I would say that, like so many, I viewed the use of amplification as a form of cheating.   To some degree, I do not completely disagree with this notion. Like all tools, it isn’t the tool itself that is the problem, but what one chooses to use it for.  If one uses amplification simply in order to play louder, then you are in fact cheating. However, like any [...]