Abandon structure to discover its function in refined form

My Skype student playing the Schubert Op. 143 came back to me the next day even more confused about the opening of the 3rd mvt. She had remembered the let-go of the hand but hadn’t fully realized the crucial importance of the wrist guiding the hand through the phrase shape as the fingers ‘just flutter.’ I had her ‘chain’ the first three notes (A-B-C) very quickly, throwing her wrist to the right, and the notes instantly sounded as they should: pianissimo, feathery, mysterious. I then had her add the fourth note, again playing very quickly and throwing the wrist (A-B-C-B). Although the melody changes direction I did not have her change the direction of her wrist. That little jig in the melodic direction is not big enough or important enough to warrant a change in direction of the wrist. Lo and behold, she could play that easily too. Then it was a simple matter to add the last three notes of the group.

I mentioned to her that although I had told her to flop her hand entirely and let go of its structure, of course she couldn’t really let go of its structure – those bones are in there and always will be. By giving ourselves the subjective experience of letting go structure, we’re only letting go of our need to hold on to that structure. With it let go, it can now function at a more highly refined level, and actually finally work the way it was designed to.

It was exciting to me to see her use her hand in a way that I knew she had never experienced her entire life. It was a totally new sound to her, highly bizarre but highly intriguing. She loved it, and so I told her she would just have to live with the feeling of unfamiliarity until she got to know this way of playing a little better.

A nice lesson, given at a distance of 7,000 miles!


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