Linking Musical Intention to Physical Organization in Piano Technique

Yesterday was my annual lecture to the piano pedagogy class at our Academy on my “Method.” But this year it was different, because instead of sitting there like bumps on a log, the students had lots of questions – it was great, we established a real investigative dialogue.

One guy especially, Aleksandar, kept insisting that this focus on the physical was a distraction. For instance, he told me,  “I kept missing a bass note and my teacher said I wasn’t listening to it enough, and when I listened better, I hit it every time.”

I had just given the class a mini-Feldenkrais lesson and explained to them how our brain is constantly managing a thousand aspects of movement and this activity must necessarily be outside of our awareness, because if we tried to be aware of it all we would seize up, we couldn’t funtion! In Awareness Through Movement we actually delve into those normally unconscious processes in order to improve them, but it’s always tricky, because you tend to get so absorbed in the details of the movement that you never get back to the automatism that you are supposed to be improving.

So I told Alexander, “Your teacher gave you a perfect way of managing that integration right away. You were sensitive enough to your body that it could respond when your ear dictated the exact movement needed to achieve the goal. Better aural listening evoked better physical ‘listening.’ ”

Musicians do this most of the time. My sorties into the intracacies of physical organization, my bringing these normally beind the scenes neurological activities out into the open, always contains the problem: we are now one step removed from the normal musical process which is a direct link from musial intention through the ear to the movement automatism.

But I did insist on this point with Alexander: if I see a student using his or her ear but the physical organization working AGAINST the fulfilment of the ear’s intention, then I will step in and educate the physical reflexes.

It was a great class – a realy rigorous dialogue helps me to clarify my ideas and ‘put them through the ringer’ – always a useful exercise.


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