Sunday, August 16, 2020

Dramatic Reading, Musical Phrasing, and the Camera Obscura

I have spent the past several days practicing exercises and etudes that address string crossings. Practicing exercises like these helps clear my mind, because I can pay attention to getting from point A to point B (sometimes literally) clearly and cleanly, and I can pay exclusive attention to my right hand and my left hand without thinking much about anything musically sophisticated. The desired outcome of this kind of practice is, of course, to not have to think that much about technique while playing musical phrases that involve things like string crossings.

Also, during the past few days, Michael and I have read a couple of Sophocles plays out loud, in preparation for a Theater of War Event this Wednesday.

Sight-reading plays is a lot of fun. I would often find myself reading the lines very quickly in my head before reading them out loud, and could then give the kind of nuance that the phrase needed. I have never been aware of doing this kind of thing when reading poetry or prose aloud. A play provides the perfect setting for this kind of experience because silence is part of the rhythm of dialogue.

This morning I was working on the Prelude of the Bach E major Partita, and, drawing upon the spoils of my string-crossing practice, I found that I would "see" phrases physically, and then apply the bow to make lines go where I wanted them to go. It was kind of like the way a camera obscura is used for drawing.

The camera obscura projects an upside-down image on a screen or a piece of paper, and, because all a person needs to do is trace the projected image with a writing instrument, it is possible to have an extremely confident line on the page. This morning I felt like my bow was unobstructed by concerns, and my left hand, after spending hours and decades on this music, somehow had the "space" to "read ahead" and be present for my bow. I had the feeling of confidence that I get when I am tracing a clear image onto paper (with a high-quality pencil).

It was a wonderful feeling.

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