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I think it is fairly common for pianists to have images/thoughts in mind when performing a work although I personally do not use this technique.

For example, I have heard Victor Rosenbaum say to a pupil performing a Bach Sarabande "Now play it as if it were entitled "Sarabande on the loss of a child""(he actually apologized for the terrible thought).

I have also heard Rosenbaum frequently make up words to fit musical phrases in a piece to try and get a performer to play the piece in a certain way. The one I remember the most was "Oh how I love you, oh how I love you" that he used for a passage(I think where it switches to b minor) in the opening movement of Schubert's G major Sonata.

Do your teachers ever use images/phrases etc. to help show you what they want you to do with a piece?

Do you yourself ever make up your own images/phrases/stories to help you perform a work?

Why do you think these images/phrases etc. are helpful (or not helpful)?

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My teachers used to do this with me all the time. It is very helpful in pictureing what the piece might sound like given the image and thoughts in you mind.

As far as vocalizing phrases. I do that all the time particularly when there's a complicated rhythm or ornament within the melody. This is more like scat-singing, but I find that by making words fit the notes, I'm able to internalize the pattern easier.

John


Current works in progress:

Beethoven Sonata Op. 10 No. 2 in F, Haydn Sonata Hoboken XVI:41, Bach French Suite No. 5 in G BWV 816

Current instruments: Schimmel-Vogel 177T grand, Roland LX-17 digital, and John Lyon unfretted Saxon clavichord.
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Quote
Originally posted by John Citron:
My teachers used to do this with me all the time. It is very helpful in pictureing what the piece might sound like given the image and thoughts in you mind.
John
Can you explain exactly how having an image is helpful, i.e. how this image is used in performing a piece? Or is it kind of a subconscious help?

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Originally posted by pianoloverus:
Quote
Originally posted by John Citron:
[b] My teachers used to do this with me all the time. It is very helpful in pictureing what the piece might sound like given the image and thoughts in you mind.
John
Can you explain exactly how having an image is helpful, i.e. how this image is used in performing a piece? Or is it kind of a subconscious help? [/b]
Well, the example I can think of is a Bach fugue. After the exposition, there will be a kind of episode that is not fugal followed by a return of the fugue. My teacher interprets these interludes as Bach sitting in his home on a rainy afternoon, improvising and relaxing on his instrument. This has given me a visual picture of how to play this part of the piece. Does that help?


Best regards,

Deborah
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Originally posted by gooddog:
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Originally posted by pianoloverus:
[b]
Quote
Originally posted by John Citron:
[b] My teachers used to do this with me all the time. It is very helpful in pictureing what the piece might sound like given the image and thoughts in you mind.
John
Can you explain exactly how having an image is helpful, i.e. how this image is used in performing a piece? Or is it kind of a subconscious help? [/b]
Well, the example I can think of is a Bach fugue. After the exposition, there will be a kind of episode that is not fugal followed by a return of the fugue. My teacher interprets these interludes as Bach sitting in his home on a rainy afternoon, improvising and relaxing on his instrument. This has given me a visual picture of how to play this part of the piece. Does that help? [/b]
It doesn't help me understand the process but maybe that's just because I rarely, if ever, use it. I know that many pianists and teachers find it helpful and that's the bottom line.

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Images, particularly those suggested or imposed upon by others, do not help but somewhat hinder my interpretation of a piece, since music is not a visual but rather an intellectual stimulus for me.

"Bach sitting in his home on a rainy afternoon" is in no way helpful to me, nor were the very detailed images that someone suggested of horses charging into battle, cannons resounding, and soldiers beating a retreat when s/he was studying the Chopin G minor Ballade.

On the other hand when the piano work is a transcription of a song - in the sense of a composition for voice - I invariably listen to and study the original where the words are of considerable importance to the overall interpretation.

Regards,


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Originally posted by BruceD:
"Bach sitting in his home on a rainy afternoon"
You missed the part about Bach improvising while relaxed. That was really the image my teacher was trying to impart (the rain was him just trying to be picturesque). He meant that section of the fugue should sound spontaneous and unhurried.


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There was one piece in Bach's Orgelbuchlein, "Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf" which represents a very old man making an awkward walk before giving up the ghost. When I played it I thought more in terms of skiing down a steep slope making lots of turns.

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i feel like a pilot in the first mvt of pastorale sonata where there are sixth notes in both hands


Yundi Li (http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/play.htms?LINK=rtsp://ra.universal-music-group.com/dgg/yundiLi-liszt-W-COVER.rm)
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*and have an image of me being a pilot


Yundi Li (http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/play.htms?LINK=rtsp://ra.universal-music-group.com/dgg/yundiLi-liszt-W-COVER.rm)
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One of my former teachers has a penchant for creating words for themes -- sometimes for fun, sometimes to demonstrate how to phrase a theme. Her words for the opening of Mozart's G major Piano Sonata K. 283:

How's your mum? She's fine.
How's your dad? He's dead.

Personally, I don't use such extra-musical crutches (whether they be words, images, or whatever) when playing a piece.

They can be amusing to contemplate -- just not when playing or listening to music.


Die Krebs gehn zurucke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.
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Quote
Originally posted by gooddog:
Quote
Originally posted by BruceD:
[b] "Bach sitting in his home on a rainy afternoon"
You missed the part about Bach improvising while relaxed. That was really the image my teacher was trying to impart (the rain was him just trying to be picturesque). He meant that section of the fugue should sound spontaneous and unhurried. [/b]
No, I didn't miss it, but improvising, knitting or shaving in the rain, my point was that the image of Bach sitting at home doing whatever he might be doing doesn't do anything for me when it comes to playing his works, thanks.

Regards,


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Imaging is a great way to relax and meditate. But 'given' images in music - like those that are provided by a composer - I do not feel are quite the same. It is a complex area. The 'images ' may be contained in non-musical titles or even in the way movements are described. Much can be said.

It seems like composers have at times been pressurised to some extent to provide 'images' to their compositions. In the book containing Artur Schnabel's 1945 talks - with questions and answers - he gave to music students at the University of Chicago in 1945, Schnabel recalls an elementary example of what I would call 'involuntary' image creation.

When still in Vienna and not yet having had anything published, Schnabel gave to the Simrock Publishing firm music he had titled - arrogantly as he later recalls! - just "Three Piano Pieces".

He was elated to discover that they had been accepted for publication - but no so elated to later discover that the "Three Piano Pieces" were now called "Douce tristesse - Reverie", "Diabolique" (Scherzo) and "Valse Mignonne" respectively. (Now imagine this had happened to Schoenberg ....... !!)

From reading works on Bruckner it appears that in addition to him being pressurised to vary his compositions to the extent he was, by well meaning friends, even his 4th 'Romantic' Symphony seems to have been called "Romantic"only after Bruckner had been intervened upon. As I recall he was further, once the music had received this epithet, asked what the music 'meant'?

Bruckner responded shyly that there was a medieval walled towns, that it was dawn, knights were gathering, the town's gates then swung open and they went riding off into meadows (or forests?) seeking adventure. I do not have the book in front of me so am relying on the images in my own memory here somewhat.

The above two are just the tip of the iceberg. With an instrument as expressive as the piano I sometimes feel that image creation through the words of their composers might be problematic. Persons may, albeit subconsciously, upon hearing it be attempting to fit their own subjective experience into the description provided by such composer.

Does this mean that composers should be influenced ever more to compose Gebrauchsmusik Hindemith-style? Or that we should support Reger's taciturn descriptions of pieces? No. There is no clear answer.

Why this topic is becoming so fascinating is due to the plethora of publications in academic Journals now dealing with the strong link between neurotherapy and music. This is not my area and I bow to those who it is. However even coming from another discipline, most such articles are easily followed. I would be very interested indeed as to what those who do have a background in neurology or similar discipline have to say on this topic.

Kind regards (from a Victoria with enough Alpine district snow to create images to last perhaps even over summer ...)

ILH


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Originally posted by Semper Bösendorfer:
From reading works on Bruckner it appears that in addition to him being pressurised to vary his compositions to the extent he was, by well meaning friends, even his 4th 'Romantic' Symphony seems to have been called "Romantic"only after Bruckner had been intervened upon. As I recall he was further, once the music had received this epithet, asked what the music 'meant'?

Bruckner responded shyly that there was a medieval walled towns, that it was dawn, knights were gathering, the town's gates then swung open and they went riding off into meadows (or forests?) seeking adventure.
Many stories about Bruckner, a true Parsifal of music. He was a simple soul (yet a blazing genius) and always tended to "agree with thine adversary". And what a mess music historians have had to deal with since.

I have many images with Bruckner (most secretly the scherzo of the 7th), but care not to reveal anything else here. More reliable would be his mass settings. Liturgically correct, they give us the greatest insight into this man's profound experience with Christianity.


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I sometimes cannot avoid creating some images.

I am working on "girl with the flaxen air" and cannot avoid whilst playing thinking of a young boy looking in the distance at the girl...
still, it is nothing systematic, or even wanted. Sometimes I link images to music, sometimes not.

The other piece on which I am working is Bach Invention n. 8. Beside massacring my fingers in Hanon fashion, it does not conjure any image in me, I just (very much) like the music.


"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

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Don't get the image thing at all. I use scenarios to elicit feelings from students like - your little brother has just stepped on your Xbox or your mum won't let you have an ice cream.

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Originally posted by Innominato:
I sometimes cannot avoid creating some images. [...] still, it is nothing systematic, or even wanted. Sometimes I link images to music, sometimes not.
Same with me. I don't force it, it just happens for some pieces. When such an image has accompanied me for some time, it actually helps me (at least I think so) in conjuring up the mood I would like to have. The association is usually just atmospheric, with more or less detail, but not a real narrative over the course of the piece (exception: Lied/opera transcriptions, as BruceD also mentioned). A random example: Schubert's Moment Musical #3 creates a very ambiguous atmosphere with me. It's the image of a village fair/celebration, with people laughing and dancing around. As I am playing, I am watching this scene alone and from a distance. It's not at all a desperate feeling of loneliness, but rather a serene mood in which I enjoy silently watching the others having fun even though I don't belong to them. Weird image maybe, but like I said - it just happens for some pieces... Btw, my teacher has never used images as a teaching device so far, he always talks about the music directly. I like that, even though as I said I have images associated with some pieces.

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For me there is an image within the music itself, and if forced, I can "translate" that into visual or similar images. But in all honesty, something is lost in the translation. That's why it's in musical form in the first place. In the same way you can express something in a painting which the viewer experiences in the interplay of colours, images etc. but you could "explain" it in words.

My teacher and I once compared notes for the Handel Largo. I put into words what I sensed in the music: there was religious supplication and striving by a prayerful person who was hopeful but unsure, and a steady beat of Creation behind his supplication that he was not totally aware of. For my teacher there was a God who was in turns stern (my steady beat?) and kind (the gentler more moving part of the music?).

Another time, to get a handle on the rhythm of a particular movement I asked whether I had the correct image in galloping horses. He found it to be more like bounding gazelles, and that helped me musically.

My teacher insists that image and interpretation belongs to the (student) musician and that he can have no role in having me form it. On the other hand I'm fairly imaginative (overly?) and his guidance may reflect the student.

Since meaning comes from inside the music and is experience personally, I would find some image derived by a teacher to possibly interfere with what might shape itself from the music.

These days I find that I need to understand the structure and background of the music, and for some reason they are not dull abstracts, but seem to add to emotional meaning. I couldn't put into words why.

I know that my teacher does at times evoke images for students through various bits and pieces I have heard - I think it depends on where the student is at.

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The images that my teacher spoke of are not literal images that one would see. i.e. and old man sitting in front of a fire. etc., but more like the emotional pictures one has when contemplating on the music. More like the emotions the pieces evoke so that can reflect in the playing. It's hard to explain so hopefully this has come acrossed as I mean it.

Taking the adagio movement from Beethoven's Op. 7 no. 3 for example, what kind of feelings do you get when you play this movement? Is it happy, sad, or empathetic? These are more like th images that I was taught about. Not real pictures, although sometimes they do happen as well like when playing Debussy's "Jardins su la Pluis" or perhaps his "Danse", which evokes a wild night on a ballroom floor in my mind at least.

Hope this explains it.

John


Current works in progress:

Beethoven Sonata Op. 10 No. 2 in F, Haydn Sonata Hoboken XVI:41, Bach French Suite No. 5 in G BWV 816

Current instruments: Schimmel-Vogel 177T grand, Roland LX-17 digital, and John Lyon unfretted Saxon clavichord.
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