understanding

THINKING IN A NEW WAY—Overcoming Habits (Part 3 of 6): My Cello and Me, a Dynamic Partnership — by Selma Gokcen

Trying is only emphasizing the thing we already know. —F.M. Alexander Just as you have the impulse to do something, stop. —Early Zen scripture (anonymous) Once a reasonable base of understanding is established and a student is able to stop, wait and stay back (this means leaving their back back rather than rushing forward) in the face of simple activities like sitting in and standing up from a chair, going up on the toes, all basic procedures long established in the Alexander Technique, the next challenge is to take up the cello. For each player, their instrument has associations, sometimes happy, sometimes fraught with tension and negative experiences. Just seeing their instrument makes some of my Alexander students anxious! And they are surprised that they don't have to pick up [...]

Playing Audition Excerpts: Yes, the Devil’s in Them — by Brant Taylor

Although the collection of excerpts on an audition repertoire list may seem arbitrary, each one has a purpose: giving the audition candidate an opportunity to demonstrate certain things about his or her playing and artistry. Audition success involves showing a command of certain basic elements—such as rhythm, dynamics, intonation and articulations—as well as conveying a nuanced understanding of the music and the composer. A well crafted audition list will include excerpts that emphasize each of these elements, and a candidate’s ability to demonstrate control and understanding of them will determine his or her chance for success. Let's put these goals into concrete terms using a common cello audition excerpt as an illustration—the opening of the second movement of Brahms' Symphony No. 2:   Brahms Second Symphony, 2nd Mvt. [...]

What’s the Passcode? — by Brant Taylor

In the reader chats I've hosted on this website, certain discussion topics make frequent appearances.  One of those topics, a question I hear often from students and other amateur musicians, is: "How do you practice?"  It's easy to see why.  The assumption is that professional musicians must be great, or at least successful, practicers, and that insights into the habits of accomplished musicians should provide valuable information about how to improve and make the best use of practice time. While I am always happy to share information about my own practicing, I always make an important qualification: practice is a personal thing.  There is no one way to practice, no secret passcode to gain entry to the clubhouse of good cello playing or success in the music profession.  You must [...]

Composing and Playing Music: How Composing Helps Your Playing — by Lev Mamuya

Composing one’s own music can prove to be a very valuable resource when it comes to interpreting the music of others, and vice versa. As a composing musician myself, I find that as I get more advanced in each field, each one’s development seems to promote the other’s. Through composing my own music I have not necessarily gained a greater technical facility, but a more complete understanding of the markings in the music that I play and a deeper appreciation of the composer’s intentions.  The practice of putting in more detailed markings has developed over time. The music of 20th century composers is generally more specific marking-wise than the music of the Baroque era in terms of what composers actually wrote into the music. For instance, the Debussy Cello Sonata [...]

Cycles, Shostakovich, and the Final Four — Brandon Vamos

I often get asked about performing cycles. I am a member of a Quartet that is passionate about performing cycles of music, including the complete string quartets of Beethoven, Carter, Mendelssohn, and Shostakovich (among others). But why bother with cycles? What do they have to offer us a musicians or audience members? I like to think of it like I think of my Vikings (in case you didn’t know, I’m a huge fan). Why bother following a team game to game or season to season? Well for one, you start to learn the language of the game. Not just the game of football itself, but how that TEAM plays the game. The aggressive way they run plays or their team personality, what feeling they leave with you at the end [...]