In my previous blog, I explained the approaches to preparing new repertoires, before tackling the very first bar. Conventionally, most students are taught to play hands separately first and, when all notations are learned, then to play hands together. This presents a challenge because often our muscles, motions and mental memory may not be sufficiently synchronized and coordinated. My last blog on The Learning Process addresses a more creative, effective and holistic approach to learning.
In this blog, I will provide some more insight in artistic interpretation through which students can start to interpret and analyse music through The Learning Process. The Learning Process addressed only the technical skills and preparation for artistic pursuit. Beyond the mastery of technical skills, students need to understand what the music is trying to convey and to what extent their performance is achieving the composer’s intent.
There are three main areas that students need to focus on for insight analysis before effective practice can be achieved and sustained:
1.The form and structure
As is the case when writing a paragraph, music presents phrasings that illustrate the beginning and ending of a section. Within each section, students need to know the main theme, motives, any sub-phrasing and other smaller units like leading notes that will help to connect one phrase or section to another.
When playing a sonata, for instance, the student needs to know such things as exposition, 2nd subject, development and recapitulations. The student needs to analyse and determine if the piece is a binary, simple binary or ternary form.
The analysis of texture determines the relation between the voices and its surrounding sound such as:
- Is the melody situated at the top, middle or bottom?
- Do some of the accompaniment voices have a melodic line of their own? Is there counter-melody or subordinate melody but completely independent melodic line appearing?
- Does the harmonic accompaniment occur as Alberti Bass, Broken Chords or Apeggios?
- Are the voices realized in part-writing as in Choral style?
- What are the intervallic spans involved in the accompaniment passages; e. g., parallel 3rd, 6th, Octaves or a 10th?
- Are there several voices that lead a simultaneous sound and rhythmic feature that move in complete independence in pitch motion and rhythm?
- Do one or several voices emerge one after another; e. g., like an imitation or Canon?
a) Search for underlying harmonic tension:
- Is there a cadential point to close the section or is there modulation or a series of modulation?
- The frequency of the harmonic changes determined the intensity of the tension. What is the harmonic rhythm like; e. g., Does the harmonic rhythm change every beat, bar or over one or several phrases?
b) Search for melodic tension:
- Where does the interval appear? The dissonant, like the semitone, augmented 4th and diminished 7th creates more tension.
- Accidentals give rise to surprises and heightens the tension of the melodic interest.
- Watch out for appoggiaturas which give the effect of tension before releases into resolution.
c) Search for rhythmic distributions:
- Do the rhythms comprise simple, regular and even or complex (as in unpredictable and frequent changes) figurations?
- Are there syncopations and dotted rhythms throughout the piece or are there any repetitions and sequences that are prevalent and requires special attention?
Determine the loudest or softest part of the whole piece. Once one decides how loud or how soft the desired volume is, one can adjust the level of volumes between the loudest and softest parts within the piece.
- Is the dynamic applying to a specific melodic group only, certain phrase or the whole section?
- Does the climax of a section result in resolution following the subsequent phrase?
- Does the particular dynamic contain a gradual preparation towards the next dynamic outburst or is it a transition between two harmonic and thematic spheres?
- Does the soft crescendo within a phrase express an emotion?
The questions relating to tempo are similar to those asked in the Dynamics area. The agogics tempo describes the graduate increase and decrease of a tempo determined by considering the following:
- How strong or subtle is the ritardando/accelerando and is it being interrupted by a fermata or a cut off by an abrupt entry to the next section?
- Is tempo resumed?
- Is the tempo changed to establish a new tempo, contrasting enough to interrupt the continuity but yet similar enough not to destroy the inner pace?
- Does the tempo change with gradual development towards an entirely new speed, with no relation from the previous section which establishes a new character?