Tuesday, February 1, 2011

random notes on Egypt, Chopin, and release technique

I'm not an activist of any kind. But it is the moment I wonder if I should use Twitter or Facebbook when I see the news from Egypt or Tunisia. I don't want to announce what I'm doing or thinking every hour: I think I just use them to receive what the other people say, think, and feel, suppose that I use them. But, receiving the voices won't change the world... or, will it? I know listening does something, or, showing that I'm listening does something. I even guess that the delusion that I can do something by just showing that I'm listening to would do something to the world. On the other hand I'm sure that I will be more distracted if I use Twitter and Facebook. I'm afraid that these will make me just busy. I actually don't want to be connected with many people. I just want to make a few who can understand me understand.

In Egypt the internet and SMS are basically blocked, though there appears some ways to circumvent the block. There was no internet in 1989. There was neither mobile phone nor TV in 1917. There was no telephone in 1789. I think the internet is overestimated. And I think it is still true that we have to march on the streets if we want to change the government. We should not underestimate the power of walking on the streets and talking with the neighbors.

Thus, as we shall see, if it is true that the political organization of the twentieth century is rooted in the political thought of the nineteenth, the latter is almost entirely present in embryonic form in the music of the eighteenth century.

--Jacques Attali, Noise:The Political Economy of Music, University of Minnesota Press, 1985, Trans. Brian Massumi, p. 4)

I'm not good pianist, but I often play classical music privately. And I'm better at it than I was, so now I try to revisit some difficult pieces I once gave up to play, such as Chopin √Čtudes. Op 25 No 6 is one of them. Yes, this one (at this moment I don't embed those YouTube clips that display pianists playing this piece...) :


I cannot play it as fast as professional pianists do, but I find physical pleasure in playing it. Chopin did not relentlessly try to make his pieces difficult. He accepted the fact that the fingers are not created equal, and also are connected with the whole body, unlike the others of his time (or before his time) who pretended that the fingers are created equal and tried to train the fingers alone. Chopin listened to the body.Playing this piece in a slow tempo makes me feel as if the fingers are rolling around on the elastic floor, sensing the weight of themselves, of the arms, of the upper body. It's like what dancers call release technique (I mean, not Skinner's, but in general terms), which includes a lot of floor excises: feel the weight, and the body will tell you how to move. I could compare this way: Czerny (and more horrible Hanon, which I had to practice from my day-one) is bar lesson; Chopin is release technique. There is some therapeutic quality in his etudes. So the proper way to practice one of these pieces is not to repeat it over and over relentlessly, but to quit when you get a slight bit of numbness (actually, whatever you practice, you shouldn't do it when feeling nothing). And sleep well. The next day you will find that the body will have learned how to move. If it won't, give up: perhaps you're not at the level to practice it.

Chopin virtually didn't take formal piano lessons. To learn music, he had to listen to not only sounds, but also the body. Physical sensation and musical sensation are inseparable for him. I think his approach to the instrument and his own habit was rather similar to jazz pianists'. On the other hand, he was very a classicist and his aristocratic tastes had a problem with Beethoven who liked surprise the public. Perhaps Chopin's contemporary popularity relies on the fact that "public" appears to be disappearing from our lives.

I guess Debussy liked this part:


My favorite part: there is something Ligeti-esque here:


By the way, I once accompanied with an amateur singer who tried to sing some chansons and an accordionist. I joked to the accordionist that we didn't have to write his part and just let him go up and down the chromatic scale.

1 comment:

  1. The Chopin Etudes are the most important pieces in the genre and formed the basis for all future concert etudes.

    Chopin Etudes

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