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So, what *is* interpretation, really?
#1973373 10/14/12 09:55 PM
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I contemplated this as I polished up my Bach Invention earlier. Also a couple of weeks ago during my YouTube browsing, one performer tried to imitate Gould, but then received this comment:
Quote
don´t try to imitate glenn gould. find your own way to play bach. use glenn gould´s playing as a fundament.

well played!


Anyway, it got me thinking...


Typically, with all of my pieces, I always try to "imitate" someone's interpretation - of course, it's usually a favorite professional one. However, mine *always* comes out different for many different reasons, the first one being a lack of skill (of course). I know I will never sound like the pro, but at the same time, I don't always agree with how he or she plays a certain part. In my mind, this phrase or measure should sound like this - this being the way I interpret it. In the end, I end up copying certain aspects of their performance.

Being self-directed, I have this type of freedom. smile For those of you with teachers, do you guys play it exactly as the teacher tells you to interpret it? I'm just curious, and this is not meant to "knock" anybody's method - whether self-taught or not.... but just an open discussion. How do you all interpret a piece?


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Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973380 10/14/12 10:21 PM
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It seems to me that at this point my interpretation is still much more defined by my skills than what I would like it to be. So usually my teacher tells me to play in a certain way from a technical point of view. But she never just ignores my ideas of how something should sound or how a passage should be played, especially with composers/music I am more familiar with.

I usually have a favorite recording of the piece, but when I start playing the piece and actually reading the sheet I sometimes realize that it is not exactly the way the composer wrote it. So I need to make up my mind what to do with it. I guess interpretation consist of at least two things: The ability to bring to life what the composer wrote and the ability to go beyond the score in a way that gives it your own personal touch without changing too much. Add to this everyone's personal sound and touch on the piano and the options are unlimited...

Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973396 10/14/12 11:27 PM
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Originally Posted by CebuKid
For those of you with teachers, do you guys play it exactly as the teacher tells you to interpret it?
Well, if you did that, then it would be your teacher's interpretation, not yours! smile My teacher will often suggest different things to try and encourage me to experiment with different expressions. Or he will point out things in the score that I missed, or explain something about the structure of the piece and how it is developing, since those should influence the interpretation. But in the end, it is me playing it, so I have to decide what the piece means to me and how I want to express that.


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Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973399 10/14/12 11:33 PM
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My interpretation of most pieces usually is to slow them down considerably to, um, bring out the, um, rich harmonies.

Yeah, that's it!

laugh

But seriously, I like to imagine that I wrote it, and I play it as if I wrote it. The dynamic markings on the score help in this sense, but sometimes the results are different. Not right, just different. smile

Last edited by BenPiano; 10/14/12 11:44 PM.

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Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973420 10/15/12 01:29 AM
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To me, interpreation is learning how to deviate from the score. You stretch, bend, and alter to a very subtle degree, and without breaking. If you played everything in exact time, exact dynamics, and exactly as written, you would experience a very mechanical performance. So, you have to learn to deviate from exactly what is written, but deviate in a way that enhances rather than detracts.


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Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973554 10/15/12 10:46 AM
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I agree with the bulk of what you're saying, Derulux, but the word 'deviate' makes me pause. I like that you used the word 'enhance' though -- to me, that's the key to interpretation. I'd like to think interpretation sticks with what the composer wanted, rather than deviating from the original intent.

There was another thread recently where someone mentioned that one of Chopin's students asked if he could write more direction into his score, and he said if he wrote everything he intended onto the score, the page would be black.

So I think interpretation is filling in those blanks that the composer didn't notate. Obviously there is still some personal nuances that are unique to each performer, but if they are truly deviating from the score, to me it's not a good interpretation.

CeBuKid -- building on your Bach example, I think the best way to have your own interpretation of Bach is to first learn about the performance conventions of Bach's time. Learn about the instruments the music was actually written for, and this knowledge will guide how you articulate and phrase the music on a modern piano.

On a side note -- Gould's Bach is an interesting example for the topic of interpretation. I think Gould has certainly done his research on the music he plays, but I also think he strives to go beyond the genre, to be innovative, which makes for some wonderful music, but whether or not it is stylistically accurate is up in the air.

Last edited by LadyChen; 10/15/12 10:48 AM.
Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973559 10/15/12 11:09 AM
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LadyChen, I like your idea of "expand". In the same vein, how about "bring out" as in bring out what is in the music?

Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973560 10/15/12 11:10 AM
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LadyChen, you've brought up some good points here. But do you think the level of "deviation" wink can vary, depending on the purpose of the performance? I seems that it could be dependent on your goals and your audience. If CebuKid is going to be playing this simply for his own enjoyment, he might have more latitude than if he were performing for judges or for a paying audience. Of course, if you deviate too much, maybe you should call it something other than an "interpretation".


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Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973570 10/15/12 11:38 AM
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MaryBee -- absolutely the level of 'deviation' can vary. I guess the word deviation has certain connotations for me. But I understand what Derulux meant by it. I totally agree with Derulux on the "stretch, bend and alter" part, and absolutely we don't always play with strict time and exact dynamics, nor should we. Besides, we know that much of those markings were added by editors, not the composers, which is why RESEARCH is so important!

I think of Bach's Prelude in C in book 1 -- you'll hear a lot of pianists play this with lots of pedal and rubato. It's beautiful, but it isn't Bach. And you can do that for your own enjoyment, but if I'm going to a Bach concert, I definitely don't want to hear it. So I agree there is more latitude when playing for your own enjoyment.

If you deviate too much, I think it becomes an "arrangement" (or de-rangement! haha).




Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973597 10/15/12 12:32 PM
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Just deviating from the "conventionally accepted way" is often a mark of interpretation. An example for me, is the ending of the 1st movement of the Beethoven Appasionata sonata. The piece moves along at a pretty good clip then hits an adagio (slow)section before the finale, which is "piu allegro" (a little more moving).

Now in most interpretations I have heard, the pianist rips into the ending even FASTER than the earlier statements and recapitulations. Now there are lots of big chords, and played even faster, to my ear, the whole ending sounds like noise.
I personally think the "piu allegro" means more moving than the previous "adagio", and not the entire movement.

Also for the big chords, they are to be played louder and louder, but many play them louder...and faster too. Again to my ear it doesn't work.

Soooo....I play it more slowly in a melancholy, retrospective way, eventually building in volume to the climax, eventually calming down at the end.

If I was better at posting stuff I would upload sound files of what I mean.


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Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973620 10/15/12 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by LadyChen
If you deviate too much, I think it becomes an "arrangement" (or de-rangement! haha).

This cracked me up! laugh

Once, as a kid, I had a very strict teacher. I saw her smile once in the first 10-12 years I knew her. She asked a group of us what the opposite of "augmented" was. I responded "demented". Oops. smile


Quite a few people I've spoken to about the topic of interpretation draw issue with the word deviate. They do the same thing--try to replace it with a word that intrinsically has a more positive connotation. I've learned to accept this. In the end, I don't think it really matters much what word we use, so long as we agree that we can't play exactly as written and create good music. (Now, can we take this argument back to that "you must follow every composer's fingering exactly as written" thread? wink )


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Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
Stanza #1973626 10/15/12 01:36 PM
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Coming from a violin background, i know there's no way a given player on a given instrument, at a given time, using a given mike, through a given system, etc., etc. could never sound exactly the same ever. I don't think there's anything wrong with having your favorite version of a piece in mind while you play it. Aiming for the stars knowing that you're aim will fall somewhere in the vicinity, is what it's all about. Better to shoot for the stars than to have never shot at all.

About the video (i've not scene): Playing with your chin on the keys, doesn't make you Glenn Gould. It makes me wonder if that were just a sound file, if it would have fetched the same comment?


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Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973632 10/15/12 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by CebuKid
I contemplated this as I polished up my Bach Invention earlier. Also a couple of weeks ago during my YouTube browsing, one performer tried to imitate Gould, but then received this comment:
Quote
don´t try to imitate glenn gould. find your own way to play bach. use glenn gould´s playing as a fundament.

well played!


Anyway, it got me thinking...


Typically, with all of my pieces, I always try to "imitate" someone's interpretation - of course, it's usually a favorite professional one. However, mine *always* comes out different for many different reasons, the first one being a lack of skill (of course). I know I will never sound like the pro, but at the same time, I don't always agree with how he or she plays a certain part. In my mind, this phrase or measure should sound like this - this being the way I interpret it. In the end, I end up copying certain aspects of their performance.

Being self-directed, I have this type of freedom. smile For those of you with teachers, do you guys play it exactly as the teacher tells you to interpret it? I'm just curious, and this is not meant to "knock" anybody's method - whether self-taught or not.... but just an open discussion. How do you all interpret a piece?


There's no "correct" interpretation, and everyones' tastes are different, but I usually discuss the piece with my student to get the general feel for it. I'll ask them to listen to different interpretations out there, and we'll come to a consensus on how we want to interpret it. After that, we'll work on coming closer and closer to that particular interpretation of the piece in each lesson.

Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
Derulux #1973633 10/15/12 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Derulux

Quite a few people I've spoken to about the topic of interpretation draw issue with the word deviate. They do the same thing--try to replace it with a word that intrinsically has a more positive connotation. I've learned to accept this.


Funny, I was going to use the same expression (deviate from the score), but for some reason changed it...I guess I felt it might be misunderstood.

Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973648 10/15/12 02:30 PM
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The phrase "deviate from the score" is a bit problematic to me, not because of the word "deviate" but because of the notion that the score completely defines the standard from which one deviates. As Magritte might have reminded us, the score itself is not the musical work. It's a representation (albeit an often privileged representation) of the work and, like all texts, it suggests varying levels of prescriptive and suggestive meanings to various audiences. All representations are selective, incomplete, and highly constructive in the response of the performer. The work exists in the interpretation, not in the score or the sound waves that make up the performance.

The population of interpretations is statistically distributed around some abstract concept that might constitute the only sensible definition of the work itself. I like the word "deviate" because it suggests the statistical nature of musical performance. "Conventionally accepted" performances are nothing more than the densest part of these interpretive distributions within given historical contexts. These distributions change over time because the social discourses around performance and appreciation change. They are surely statistically connected to the score, but the score is only one factor in their complex construction.


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Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
packa #1973663 10/15/12 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by packa
The phrase "deviate from the score" is a bit problematic to me, not because of the word "deviate" but because of the notion that the score completely defines the standard from which one deviates.


You are absolutely spot on here. Sometimes the general view of how something is supposed to be played seems to be just as important as the score itself.

Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973673 10/15/12 03:29 PM
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packa, thanks for that post. Not an easy read, but definitely worth meditating on.


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Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973677 10/15/12 03:35 PM
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Watch these masterclass by Maria João Pires:

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Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
packa #1973820 10/15/12 08:55 PM
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packa, I love your explanation here!


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Re: So, what *is* interpretation, really?
CebuKid #1973863 10/15/12 10:49 PM
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Packa I loved your reply too but must admit my head hurts now a little bit!

Cebukid, when I hear a melody, it simply sets off a thought process in my mind. Many times my mind will hear many 'familiar' melodies or "little tunes' within a tune that could be made into their own separate tunes if I ran with them individually.

My interpretation or cover of a tune usually will include mini sections of other melodies that I hear in my head mixed within the original tune itself and hopefully end up with a really cool melodic blend of sounds. All while keeping the original melody if not intact, at least recognizable.

I love to do this.

So for me, 'interpretation' of any piece is really just playing variations of the original piece the way I hear it in my head; with a twist.


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