My recent post “Imagery, Emotion, and Imagination” elicited many wonderful comments. In particular, Seymour Bernstein’s opening statement is especially consonant with my thinking:
“This advice of listing adjectives can be extremely helpful to students. But unless one makes a physical connection to musical feeling, all the adjectives in the world and spoken metaphors at lessons are inspirational at the moment, but may not be lasting.”
How true. In fact, this is a problem I ﬁnd with most traditional master classes. Don’t get me wrong–I often enjoy these events very much, and come away with new ideas and inspiration. Usually, the emphasis is, rightly, on the music. But many times, the high-quality musical ideas of a master teacher can’t really be well-executed when the student’s technique isn’t ﬂuid enough–and if the teacher doesn’t offer speciﬁc technical suggestions about how to achieve the desired musical results.
Further, it is common in many master classes to actually avoid talking about technique. Perhaps the master teacher:
- doesn’t want to ‘step on the toes’ of the student’s teacher
- considers technique an area that is ‘subjective’
- prefers to work only on ‘the music’
Call me a dreamer, but I think that the student–and the audience–will beneﬁt more if the master teacher balances informed music-making with suggestions about how to execute certain passages or gestures.* This can be done in a way that honors the student and her teacher while presenting a new way to approach the music. It’s possible that this may lead to a breakthrough in understanding or in releasing the imagination which, in turn, may catalyze more creativity in the days and weeks that follow.
Involving the whole body, understanding and executing effective choreography, and connecting the physical to ‘musical feeling’ is, indeed, much more beneﬁcial in both the near and long term.