Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"The body is in the musical space. . . "

This article grabbed my attention because of the various references to the physical side of making music, which you can sometimes forget about when approaching things too abstractly. The title of the post comes from this longer quote by the subject of the article, Vijay Iyer:

"I used a paradigm of embodied cognition—seeing the mind as not just an abstract machine but as something physical, grounded in bodily processes and experiences. Rhythmic activity is based on those processes—breathing is connected to phrase; the heartbeat and walking are connected to pulse; speech is connected to ornament and melodic detail. The body is in the musical space, interacting with the instrument.

"These concepts haven't just influenced my scientific work—they have also affected my playing. For example, musical patterns that are not intuitive melodically can arise because they lie comfortably under the hands. Physical logic can be used to generate musical ideas. You can hear this happen in Chopin, whose music is very 'pianistic'—that is, it lies well under the fingers."

Besides all of this fitting so well with my idée fixe about the importance of gesture in music, I think he really understands Chopin. I've long thought that Chopin, being one of the very first composers with access to the modern piano, completely grasped the possibilities of the instrument in terms of sonorities and playability. I don't think anyone has ever done better. The waltzes were among the first 3 or 4 classical LPs I ever purchased. I've mentioned from time to time not feeling particularly connected to a lot of classical music, but my enjoyment of either listening to or playing the waltzes is deep and abiding.

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