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#580916 - 12/14/07 05:42 PM Ceiling staring  
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I was watching several youtube videos of Nicolai Lugansky. I thought he was an absolutely incredible pianist but felt he had an annoying habit that a fairly high % of performers share with him. He often raises his head and looks at the ceiling.

I know some will feel that the only thing that matters is what comes out of the piano as the pianist plays it, but for me the visual aspect is a part of a live performance.

I've seen Victor Rosenbaum(a teacher I highly respect) in master classes humorously point out to students what he feels is the negative aspect of ceiling staring by asking if there was something unusual on the ceiling that caught their attention.

So... what's your opinion of this staring at the ceiling?

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#580917 - 12/14/07 07:13 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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actually i don't mind if a pianist does that once a while, since it's far better than making strange faces (Uchida comes to mind), sort of like pretending to be hugely emotionally involved.

strangely, now that you mentioned it, i remember that i was consciously aware of myself doing it at lesson the other day, playing 2 vs. 3 and trying to just listen to myself...

#580918 - 12/14/07 08:10 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Funny you should mention Mr. Rosenbaum. I also saw him holding a master class. The pianist was playing and staring up and off into the distance. I found it to be a little annoying, it seemed like an affectation. After he played, the first remark Mr. Rosenbaum had was:
"When you play you should not look up at the ceiling. We as an audience want to have our experience of the music, not see you having your experience of the music." It was quite funny but very succinct and accurate. He was not mean or snide, but made his remark in a gentle yet effective way. I saw a few of his classes and he was always very soft spoken, but really interested in the true spirit of the music.

#580919 - 12/14/07 09:48 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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"we...want to have our experience of the music, not see you having your experience of the music."

That's going to stick with me.

So then, are visual expressions of "getting lost in the music", (like ceiling-staring) really a form of self-centeredness on the part of the performer?


RachOn
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#580920 - 12/14/07 10:23 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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I recall reading that when one is asked a certain type of question, they look upwards as they think out the answer. I have seen this many times when someone is asked to recall something..they put their hand on their chin, and look upwards. Perhaps this is related to pianists looking upwards...I know I do that from time to time.


Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.
#580921 - 12/14/07 11:01 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Who cares what the pianist looks like when he performs? As a professional pianist, I don't care how I look when I perform--I'm going to experience the music I play. People are paying to listen to me--when I'm performing, I'm sharing something that is very personal. If the audience doesn't like it, too bad, the door's wide open.


Schubert: Impromptus Op. 90, Nos. 2 and 4
Chopin: Etudes Op. 25, Nos. 10-12
Scriabin: Sonata No. 2
#580922 - 12/14/07 11:06 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by RachOn:
"we...want to have our experience of the music, not see you having your experience of the music."

That's going to stick with me.

So then, are visual expressions of "getting lost in the music", (like ceiling-staring) really a form of self-centeredness on the part of the performer?
So rock and pop stars can rock out and enjoy the music but not classical pianists?

Performing is a very-centered thing to do.


Schubert: Impromptus Op. 90, Nos. 2 and 4
Chopin: Etudes Op. 25, Nos. 10-12
Scriabin: Sonata No. 2
#580923 - 12/14/07 11:07 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by cherub_rocker1979:
Quote
Originally posted by RachOn:
[b] "we...want to have our experience of the music, not see you having your experience of the music."

That's going to stick with me.

So then, are visual expressions of "getting lost in the music", (like ceiling-staring) really a form of self-centeredness on the part of the performer?
So rock and pop stars can rock out and enjoy the music but not classical pianists?

Performing itself is self-centered [/b]


Schubert: Impromptus Op. 90, Nos. 2 and 4
Chopin: Etudes Op. 25, Nos. 10-12
Scriabin: Sonata No. 2
#580924 - 12/14/07 11:34 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:


So... what's your opinion of this staring at the ceiling?
off hand, i'll share what i do and that is look at the ceiling while 'memorizing' something.. it's very habitual... it's also very good for my neck, shoulder and upper back muscles. i don't think i have EVER done it in public. it seems kind of holy when people actually do it... as if they are communing with the great god of music or something.

as i have evolved, playing in public, i've realized that the less inhibited i am, the better i play. In the past i've been incredibly self conscious, immobile and stony faced. As i've gotten used to the public in the pews, my inhibitions are not so prominent and that is definitely a good thing.

it would certainly bother me if i thought a ceiling staring episode were contrived.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#580925 - 12/15/07 02:22 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Would it be better if all the lights were to go off in the concert hall, so nobody could be distracted by anything the pianist was doing?


Sam
#580926 - 12/15/07 07:01 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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There are some things that pianists sometimes do when performing that distract or annoy me. Looking upwards is not one of them. It's something that seems to occur quite naturally, and I think I would just as soon that the pianist not be self-consciously monitoring that kind of thing while performing, if it's just a spontaneous movement.

#580927 - 12/15/07 07:39 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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My explanation (I'm not saying it's right, by any means! smile )

I would assume that the ceiling-staring business - assuming it's a habit, not an act - subconsciously occurs from a desire to eliminate the VISUAL aspects of playing piano, so one can focus more on the MUSICAL aspects... just like when somebody is deep in thought - they often look up so that they can focus their attention on the current problem rather than other visual distractions.

If this is the case, i'm sure that you could get into the habit of staring at something a little closer to the ground, maybe just over the music stand into the darkness, or at a wall, etc.

#580928 - 12/15/07 09:48 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by signa:
[QB] actually i don't mind if a pianist does that once a while, since it's far better than making strange faces (Uchida comes to mind), sort of like pretending to be hugely emotionally involved.
I have been to at least 6 Uchida concerts and never noticed what for me were distracting facial expressions. I can virtually guarantee that if she does make faces that distract you it is not because she is "pretending".

I am curious about how forum members respond to this video of Yundi Li playing the second movement of Chopin's e minor concerto:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Mg24YsN0iuU

I think it is an incredibly beautiful performance and that his facial expressions add a great deal to the performance. I think he is anyting but pretending but instead is reacting to thie music which he seems to find sublime.

#580929 - 12/15/07 10:13 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by cherub_rocker1979:
Who cares what the pianist looks like when he performs? As a professional pianist, I don't care how I look when I perform--I'm going to experience the music I play. People are paying to listen to me--when I'm performing, I'm sharing something that is very personal. If the audience doesn't like it, too bad, the door's wide open.
I have listened to a few of your recordings at your website and thought they were terrific but I have to disagree with you on several points here.

If appearnace doesn't matter would it be OK to wear dirty jeans and a ripped t-shirt when you perform? I realize this is not exactly like looking at the ceiling or making faces but I think appearnance is a part of alive performance although a relatively small part.

As far as your saying the audience can leave if they don't like it, IMHO that is somewhat arrogant.

#580930 - 12/15/07 11:08 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by cherub_rocker1979:
Who cares what the pianist looks like when he performs? As a professional pianist, I don't care how I look when I perform--I'm going to experience the music I play. People are paying to listen to me--when I'm performing, I'm sharing something that is very personal. If the audience doesn't like it, too bad, the door's wide open.
... and if your audience takes your advice, where are you? I find it difficult to believe that a professional performer would be this dismissive of his audience. You imply that performance is about communication, yet you contradict yourself by first saying that the audience is "paying to listen to [you]..."while you are "sharing something that is very personal," but then you add that the audience can leave if they don't like your demeanor. This doesn't sound like communication and sharing to me.

Regards,


BruceD
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#580931 - 12/15/07 11:34 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by RachOn:


So then, are visual expressions of "getting lost in the music", (like ceiling-staring) really a form of self-centeredness on the part of the performer?
I've wondered about that. Some years back I saw Schiff in the Brahms D minor, and he spent quite a bit of time looking upwards. Hard to say whether he was looking upward for inspiration, or just contemptuous of the audience.

But I've haven't attended a concert of his since.


Jason
#580932 - 12/15/07 11:41 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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how can you hate this pianist?

minute 5 for ceiling staring

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNthyu6W0mw


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#580933 - 12/15/07 12:04 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Ceiling staring is just another way to take a peak at the score when your memory slips a measure or two.

wink

#580934 - 12/15/07 08:07 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by RachOn:
So then, are visual expressions of "getting lost in the music", (like ceiling-staring) really a form of self-centeredness on the part of the performer?
No, they are not, if by self-centered you mean something intended to draw attention away from the sound and toward the performer.

"Getting lost in the music" may be a vague and silly-sounding phrase, but we all know what it means, and I can't think of a better way to describe it. It's a noble goal. Some pianists are able to achieve this while staring at the keys and making zero movements, except those necessary for the physical production of sound. And good for them. But not everyone is built this way. If staring at the ceiling (or some other mannerism) helps a pianist get where he needs to be, he'll generally do it, and won't be discouraged by a few offended souls in the audience. It usually has nothing to do with "ego" in the pejorative sense.

#580935 - 12/15/07 08:14 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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#580936 - 12/15/07 09:36 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by apple*:
it seems kind of holy when people actually do it... as if they are communing with the great god of music or something.
There's nothing holy about the ceiling.

Holey, maybe. laugh

And if it is, somebody better be staring at it!

#580937 - 12/15/07 09:45 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by whippen boy:
There's nothing holy about the ceiling.
Indeed. As a fellow organist, presumably we have plenty of experience checking out the ceiling during boring sermons. If it is not too high, there will invariably be spider webs to enjoy.

Another diversion: play a numbers game with the hymnal plaque. Great fun. laugh


Jason
#580938 - 12/15/07 10:55 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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. . . oh, never mind. I don' wanna get into this again. Takes too long to write it all out.

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

#580939 - 12/15/07 11:06 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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I do it sometimes. Not at all out of wanting attention, but it's just a habit that i've developed naturally, I find it easeir to listen to myself that way, and I feel more open. I don't think it's that distracting, and when others do it, it doesn't distract me. Gilels, Pogorelich and Kissin frequently do it, and as long as it's not extreme a la Lang Lang, I don't see the problem.

#580940 - 12/15/07 11:10 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by tomasino:
. . . oh, never mind. I don' wanna get into this again. Takes too long to write it all out.
tomasino, if you have commented on this before on the forum, why not post a link to it? Anything you have to say is of interest to me.

My previous post was more "inside humour" with whippen boy.


Jason
#580941 - 12/15/07 11:22 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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. . . oh, what the heck. Here I go.

Pianists ought to be required to take acting classes as part of the curriculum, or maybe get into an amateur production of Oklahoma, or Guys and Dolls, and really learn some stage savvy, and how to directly project themselves from a stage to an audience: and then sit down at the piano and play around with what they have learned, and see if they can't apply some of that knowledge while sitting sideways to the audience on a piano stool. They ought to take this seriously . . .

rather . . .

. . . than to repeat the catty remarks of a master class instructor to a student who perhaps is trying, is experimenting, is making an effort, at learning how to perform from the constraints of a piano stool. The student, rather than being cut short and embarrassed, ought to be encouraged to go further in experimenting with stage deportment.

Most of the stage demeanor I see of young, budding piano virtuosos is flat, ugly, and untutored, and redolent of the attitude that all that matters is how it sounds.

Nuff said. Cripes.

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

#580942 - 12/16/07 07:41 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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I absolutely agree with the last post - bringing a piece to life for an audience is exactly what an actor has to do - by drawing on knowledge, technique, understanding and an inner communion with the artist. It is a problem of hermeneutics.

Other than that - stage presence is also a matter of good manners.

To project an 'flat, ugly' bearing may also just be a case of stage fright.

Ceiling staring is harmless - I have a tendency to let my jaw drop open - WIDE - when I am concentrating hard - completely involuntary - ceiling staring is benign and 'spiritual' by comparison.

I think Liszt in his younger teen idol days would stare at female audience members -


"There is nothing more terrifying than ignorance in action." -- Goethe
#580943 - 12/16/07 08:52 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Stage manners are interesting. I've seen all kinds, from the most polished and confident to the painfully self-conscious, to the more or less non-existent, but I really don't retain a memory of them unless they were really unusual in some way. What I remember is what I am there for, which is the playing, the music-making. But sure, the kind of performer who can breeze onto stage and create a positive atmosphere before playing a note has demonstrated a certain talent - I'm just not convinced it has anything to do with anything very important, since I can't correlate my remembered impressions of really great performances with anything very consistent about stage presence. It takes all kinds.

I will say that I can't deal with watching Mustonen play, but that doesn't keep me from enjoying some of his performances - I just shut my eyes or look elsewhere. I'm pretty sure he doesn't do what he does just out of a lack of manners.

#580944 - 12/17/07 01:13 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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I agree with the latter posts. Staring at the ceiling, making faces or, alternatively, being a complete mummy (when it is not a result of stiffness/nervousness) are personal gestures and should not be repressed or forced. If you have to make an effort to either stay still or "dance" in your stool, then you are only building up tension and distracting yourself from your goal.

I'm a very shy person, and in my case, "letting go" and becoming more involved with the music invariably involves some kind of strange movement or another. I "dance" much more than other pianists and I also make some faces (though I prefer torso movement, apparently). I've watched videos of myself playing and was surprised at my own movements, signalling that I'm not fully conscious of them in those moments. If anyone where to point out that I should correct that, it'd be a tremendous setback for me. It's only a sign that I'm connecting to the audience and opening up.

While I sometimes find it funny what some pianists do while they perform, I'm not really there to stare at their faces. Classical music audiences can be really uptight sometimes, they should relax a little.

#580945 - 12/17/07 05:20 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Betelgeuse, baby!
With pianists doing so many other extreme stage antics, ceiling staring almost doesn't register for me. I certainly don't find it distracting.
You know, I must say I find the whole concern for "stage presence" somewhat odd. A lot of the time I find myself closing my eyes or naturally looking away when I'm one of the audience in a live performance. And I myself have never paid attention to my own stage presence, simply because I have no idea what it means to consciously develop a stage presence, and also because I've never been criticised for my stage presence by any of my past teachers (and in fact some have said my stage presence is "excellent", whatever that means, not only in piano but also when I've sang in opera).


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

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.
#580946 - 12/17/07 06:53 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Does "stage presence" have a say in competition results? I mean with the judges or with the scoring somehow?

#580947 - 12/17/07 07:12 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by DestinysPuppet:

If anyone where to point out that I should correct that, it'd be a tremendous setback for me. It's only a sign that I'm connecting to the audience and opening up.
Why do you think the moving is a sign that you're connecting to the audience?

#580948 - 12/17/07 09:40 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quoting JANUS SACHS:

"I myself have never paid attention to my own stage presence, simply because I have no idea what it means to consciously develop a stage presence, and also because I've never been criticised for my stage presence by any of my past teachers (and in fact some have said my stage presence is "excellent", whatever that means, not only in piano but also when I've sang in opera)."

The above quote really makes the point I made in my post above: stage demeanor is ignored in the training of pianists.

Our teachers, who have mostly never been taught it themselves, have no idea what to tell their students. And so they often become dismissive of the subject. "Ignore it," "don't do it if it doesn't feel natural," "all that matters is how you play the notes," or "thinking too much about stage presence will lead to an affectation." Many of us pick up this attitude from our teachers, and pass it onto our students.

Another reaction of teachers who are out of their depths, is to compliment a student's stage presence, or let it go altogether. I have no doubt that JANUS has a very fine natural and untutored stage presence, maybe even excellent, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved. To compliment a student's stage demeanor is certainly better than discouraging the very thought of it, but it's really not enough. We should expect more from our teachers.

But being that the practical reality is that music teachers are largely unprepared to teach stage savvy, I seriously suggest getting into theatrical productions, particularly musical theatrical productions, or take some acting classes.

"Acting for the Lyric Theater" was a class offered by the theater department at the University of Minnesota when I was a music student in the 60's. Aimed at singers, it dealt directly with how TO PHYSICALIZE THE SENSE OF SUSPENDED TIME INHERENT IN MUSIC.

It would have been of great benefit to musicians of all instruments. If anyone is at a Univesity that offers a class similar to this, I heartily recommend it.

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

#580949 - 12/17/07 10:08 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Alfred Brendel has used some time and effort developing his stage demeanor or choreography, and it shows. He is a pleasure to watch. Does his actual music making suffer? Probably to the contrary. In any case, you don't focus on riding a bike, once you've learned it. And bad stage demeanor is learned as well, only without effort and thought.

#580950 - 12/17/07 11:14 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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interesting subject actually that i worry alot about.

i sit smack dab in the middle of a circular church.. everyone stares at me anyway.. even when i'm just walking. it's awful.

maintaining composure for an hour is torture.. i am prone to giggling (everything cracks me up) and the service is so serious.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#580951 - 12/17/07 11:19 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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The sum total about stage presence that I was taught was how to bow -- "Look at your toes long enough to say, 'Hello, toes,' then look up at the audience and smile." Actually that was pretty helpful.


Schimmel 190E EP 103330
#580952 - 12/17/07 03:40 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by tomasino:


But being that the practical reality is that music teachers are largely unprepared to teach stage savvy, I seriously suggest getting into theatrical productions, particularly musical theatrical productions, or take some acting classes.

"Acting for the Lyric Theater" was a class offered by the theater department at the University of Minnesota when I was a music student in the 60's. Aimed at singers, it dealt directly with how TO PHYSICALIZE THE SENSE OF SUSPENDED TIME INHERENT IN MUSIC.

It would have been of great benefit to musicians of all instruments. If anyone is at a Univesity that offers a class similar to this, I heartily recommend it.

Tomasino
I won't deny that acting classes, classes that help one feel comfortable on stage and that give one the experience of communicating with an audience from the stage are all very helpful in many ways, not the least of which is getting the performer to feel comfortable on stage, to lose his inhibitions so that what he does on stage appears natural and unaffected.

However, Tomasino's cricitisms of many pianists' lack of stage presence acknowledged, I would like to hear from him - since he's participated in this sort of training - what specifics would apply to helping a pianist present a more communicative persona to an audience. More than 95% of a pianist's time on stage is spent seated, facing the keyboard, not looking at the audience and concentrating on communicating through his performance. Unlike a singer who can look at his/her audience, who can communicate with gestures and expressions that underscore the text of what s/he is singing the pianist does not have those "luxuries." Even most other solo instrumentalists face the audience and most stand, so they can rely to some degree on visual contact and on "body language" directed at the audience.

While I am willing to admit that many pianists - amateur and professional alike - do need training in developing a communicative stage presence that is felt from the moment they walk on stage, it seems to me that the pianist's resources for doing so are extremely limited.

Therefore, I would like to hear from Tomasino - or someone with his training in this area - less about how poorly some pianists project themselves on stage and more specifics that would help create that elusive pianist who will have the attributes that Tomasino - and others - might be looking for.

Regards,


BruceD
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#580953 - 12/17/07 05:57 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
Quote
Originally posted by cherub_rocker1979:
[b] Who cares what the pianist looks like when he performs? As a professional pianist, I don't care how I look when I perform--I'm going to experience the music I play. People are paying to listen to me--when I'm performing, I'm sharing something that is very personal. If the audience doesn't like it, too bad, the door's wide open.
I have listened to a few of your recordings at your website and thought they were terrific but I have to disagree with you on several points here.

If appearnace doesn't matter would it be OK to wear dirty jeans and a ripped t-shirt when you perform? I realize this is not exactly like looking at the ceiling or making faces but I think appearnance is a part of alive performance although a relatively small part.

As far as your saying the audience can leave if they don't like it, IMHO that is somewhat arrogant. [/b]
Well, to be fair, no one has ever said anything to me about my stage presence. I do feel that the artist has the right to assume that people who go to their concerts, go for the music. I did not mean to sound arrogant, I just said that because I have never had issues with audiences at my performances, and quite frankly most concert goers are mature enough to focus on the music.

I must say that I am concerned by the growing number of threads such as this one, that have come up both on Piano Street and Piano World forums. The same is true for the comments on YouTube, particularly in the video of Zimerman doing Chopin F minor Ballade. It's so sad to see such great talent being ridiculed and dismissed by ignorant people.

When I said that looks don't matter I wasn't referring to how a pianist should dress--of course he/she has to look professional when performing.


Schubert: Impromptus Op. 90, Nos. 2 and 4
Chopin: Etudes Op. 25, Nos. 10-12
Scriabin: Sonata No. 2
#580954 - 12/17/07 06:07 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by tomasino:
. . . oh, what the heck. Here I go.

Pianists ought to be required to take acting classes as part of the curriculum, or maybe get into an amateur production of Oklahoma, or Guys and Dolls, and really learn some stage savvy, and how to directly project themselves from a stage to an audience: and then sit down at the piano and play around with what they have learned, and see if they can't apply some of that knowledge while sitting sideways to the audience on a piano stool. They ought to take this seriously . . .

rather . . .

. . . than to repeat the catty remarks of a master class instructor to a student who perhaps is trying, is experimenting, is making an effort, at learning how to perform from the constraints of a piano stool. The student, rather than being cut short and embarrassed, ought to be encouraged to go further in experimenting with stage deportment.

Most of the stage demeanor I see of young, budding piano virtuosos is flat, ugly, and untutored, and redolent of the attitude that all that matters is how it sounds.

Nuff said. Cripes.

Tomasino
Doing that would make pianists extremely self-conscious.

If a student plays beautifully while 'making faces' or staring at the ceiling than you shouldn't try to change them. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.


Schubert: Impromptus Op. 90, Nos. 2 and 4
Chopin: Etudes Op. 25, Nos. 10-12
Scriabin: Sonata No. 2
#580955 - 12/17/07 07:31 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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No cherub__rocker,

Your statement doesn't necessarily follow. It wouldn't make them self-conscious. But it may make them self-aware. There is a difference. Self-consciousness is an unhealthy self-criticism that can be very inhibiting on stage. It is one of the things that I see in young performers that ought to be dealt with directly at some point in the training of a pianist. That's my point. Ignoring self-consciousness doesn't deal with it.

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

#580956 - 12/18/07 01:17 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by BruceD:
Quote
Originally posted by tomasino:
[b]

But being that the practical reality is that music teachers are largely unprepared to teach stage savvy, I seriously suggest getting into theatrical productions, particularly musical theatrical productions, or take some acting classes.

"Acting for the Lyric Theater" was a class offered by the theater department at the University of Minnesota when I was a music student in the 60's. Aimed at singers, it dealt directly with how TO PHYSICALIZE THE SENSE OF SUSPENDED TIME INHERENT IN MUSIC.

It would have been of great benefit to musicians of all instruments. If anyone is at a Univesity that offers a class similar to this, I heartily recommend it.

Tomasino
I won't deny that acting classes, classes that help one feel comfortable on stage and that give one the experience of communicating with an audience from the stage are all very helpful in many ways, not the least of which is getting the performer to feel comfortable on stage, to lose his inhibitions so that what he does on stage appears natural and unaffected.

However, Tomasino's cricitisms of many pianists' lack of stage presence acknowledged, I would like to hear from him - since he's participated in this sort of training - what specifics would apply to helping a pianist present a more communicative persona to an audience. More than 95% of a pianist's time on stage is spent seated, facing the keyboard, not looking at the audience and concentrating on communicating through his performance. Unlike a singer who can look at his/her audience, who can communicate with gestures and expressions that underscore the text of what s/he is singing the pianist does not have those "luxuries." Even most other solo instrumentalists face the audience and most stand, so they can rely to some degree on visual contact and on "body language" directed at the audience.

While I am willing to admit that many pianists - amateur and professional alike - do need training in developing a communicative stage presence that is felt from the moment they walk on stage, it seems to me that the pianist's resources for doing so are extremely limited.

Therefore, I would like to hear from Tomasino - or someone with his training in this area - less about how poorly some pianists project themselves on stage and more specifics that would help create that elusive pianist who will have the attributes that Tomasino - and others - might be looking for.

Regards, [/b]
If you watch Brendel play, you'll see him change posture, facial expression, and occasionally do certain movements with his arms and hands, all of this as a studied reaction to the music. For instance, when he plays the middle part of the 2nd movement of Haydn's B minor sonata, his posture is elevated (see the documentary Alfred Brendel: Man and Mask, and judge for yourself). Another example: when Liszt asks for a crescendo on a sustained note, he tries to convey this through his movements. You might also like to read Brendel himself on the subject (if I recall correctly, and it is possible that I don't, Alfred Brendel On Music has something on it).

#580957 - 12/18/07 01:49 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Brendel also keeps a picture of Liszt on the wall above his piano to "remind [himself] what performance is about".

#580958 - 12/18/07 08:56 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Bruce D and I had an exchange about this subject a year or so ago. I'm going to re-post what I wrote to him then. It's long and involved. I hope you'll take the time to read it.

Here goes:

You’re right, Bruce, I have not addressed what a pianist can do while performing as part of “stagecraft.” I’ve skirted the issue, feeling I had to create some credibility as a thoughtful person before writing about something to which so many fine pianists seem to be so strongly opposed. What you’re getting at is the word I so fear to use—“showmanship.” I fear some fine pianist on the forum will bring up the three L’s—Liberace and that other double L fellow—and then hoot me off the forum with a dismissive wave of the hand.

I’ll charge ahead anyway, but before I do—this could be another overly long post—I want to remark on a few comments you and others have made.

You say it’s not “natural” for you to bounce and sway. I don’t mean to advocate that you should, but I do want to quibble with your use of the word “natural.” Don’t you really mean “habitual?” And don’t we regularly supplant performance habits with other habits-- such as fingering. We get into the “habit” of playing a passage with a certain fingering, and after while it seems “natural.” Later a teacher points out to us that the fingering doesn’t work particularly well, as we’re always dropping a few specific notes, and suggests a different fingering. But it feels “unnatural.” So we practice the new fingering, and after while, it feels “natural.” Haven’t we really just replaced one habit with another? One fingering is not more “natural” than the other, but one may very well be a better use of nature.

If it is not “natural” for you to bounce and sway—again, I’m not advocating that you or anyone should—I suggest that at some time in your training you habituated yourself to be still. You could have just as easily habituated yourself to move.

Another word with which I quibble, and that often comes up in response to discussions of stagecraft/showmanship, is the word “artificial.” May I just point out that “art” is the root word of “artificial.” What we do for an audience is performance, and nearly every aspect of it, whether we do it well or poorly, is artificial. We are “artists.”

Now I’ll get to the nub of what you’re asking about: high, theatrical gestures while playing the piano, showy gestures, dramatic gestures.

As a singer, I know the value of stepping into a high note, or using a certain gesture that is idiomatic to the music or poetry I am dealing with—don’t worry Bruce, I’m getting there, I’ll address your question. I’ll get back to the piano soon.

I learned the real value of “dramatic gesture” during the rehearsals for an opera. The stage director wanted me to “step into” a high note. “Just take two steps forward and lay into it,” he instructed. I responded with the “it’s not natural” argument, followed by the “artificial” argument. But he wouldn’t have it. “Just step into it, and allow the gesture to fire you,” he insisted.

I sort of knew what he meant, and at his direction tried the passage again, and “allowed the gesture to fire me.”

And something wonderful happened. My high note was better than ever. It now had an edge that was appropriate to the musical and dramatic moment. Other gestures, involving my face and arms, came into play as well. I was not only technically better, I was theatrically better to boot. The other cast members broke out into applause.

Now, to follow up on this observation vis-à-vis piano: take a look at this passage from the andantino of Schubert sonata 959. That leap from the d# to the c# major chord is tough, and easy to botch up, and if botched up, it’s very exposed.

Technically, it is important to get the forearm quite high, so that I can drop my hand as directly into the chord from above as possible. If I approach it from the side, I’ll mess it up. It’s like a basketball player at the freethrow line. It is necessary to get the ball quite high above the net, otherwise the ball is apt to bounce off the rim.

But the secret for me is that I don’t think of it as technically necessary. I think of it as dramatically necessary. When my forearm goes up, I am keenly aware that I AM CUEING MY AUDIENCE that something dramatic is about to happen, and even more importantly, I AM CUEING MYSELF—I am allowing the gesture to fire me.” This “firing” seems to penetrate every nerve ending in my body, and I play technically better as a result. I get a better sound.

Here’s another example: the last page of the 1st movement of Ginastera sonata #2. Take a look at the very last measures, where, at a rapid tempo, the pianist goes from the very bottom of the piano keyboard to a fairly complicated chord at the top of the piano. I make the same arguments here as I made for the Schubert. It is technically necessary to get hands and arms well above the keyboard. If the pianist goes at it from the side, it will be botched.

But, for me at least, it is just as important to think of the high gesture as A DRAMATIC GESTURE, ONE THAT FIRES THE AUDIENCE AS WELL AS ME. When I approach it that way, my body works better: it coordinates better, and I’m much less apt to miss the chord.

The same phenomenon can take place in quieter passages. The gestures may be less dramatic, but may still be theatrical and effective. For me, I always try to be aware of the visual expressiveness of my hands, BOTH TO MYSELF AND TO THE AUDIENCE, and find that it helps both technically and theatrically.

This approach doesn’t seem tawdry and phony to me. It’s not like bouncing around on a pogo stick while playing taps on the cornet for cheap applause. Rather, it seems highly artistic in the best sense of the classical music performance tradition that most of us on the forum practice.

Going on just a bit further, I feel strongly that many of the budding virtuosos I see and hear every Thursday afternoon, and many of the budding virtuosos whose posts I read in this forum, are off on the wrong path with the constant mantra from teachers and colleagues to “be still,” “less is more,” and the constant hooting and jeering of pianists who seems to have a flair for the dramatic, and experience musical and dramatic value in getting the hands well above the fallboard. At the very least, young and gifted pianists should be encouraged by their teachers to experiment with theatricality along the lines I have suggested in my last two posts: to understand stagecraft in the sense of lighting, eye scan, personal demeanor, how to walk confidently; and directly to your question, how to best visually exploit the composer’s intent to best effect while at the keyboard.

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

#580959 - 12/18/07 10:34 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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"Technically, it is important to get the forearm quite high, so that I can drop my hand as directly into the chord from above as possible. If I approach it from the side, I’ll mess it up. It’s like a basketball player at the freethrow line. It is necessary to get the ball quite high above the net, otherwise the ball is apt to bounce off the rim."

I can see how dramatic gestures could assist a performance and I can understand how it would affect how you feel you are playing. But I can't see how what you describe can be of any use technically. The further you are away from the surface of the keys the more control is necessary to keep on target - the greater the distance the more the work. Also, I never believe it when people claim to drop onto the keys. It may be something (one of the many) that people imagine they do, and by imagining so achieve a way of playing that is, for them, quite effective. But I seriously believe that no-one actually does it.

To go a bit further. There, logically, would appear to be two ways of calibrating drops into the keys for different sound-levels; first by varying the distance from the key surface with concomitant extra work needing to be done to at least keep on target, and secondly by somehow preventing or slowing down that drop where most of the work would have to be for a negative effect[1]. I simply do not believe that anybody does this - nor should they.

[1]Anything else is not a "drop".

John


Vasa inania multum strepunt.
#580960 - 12/18/07 03:55 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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i think it's pretty brilliant


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#580961 - 12/18/07 04:01 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by apple*:
i think it's pretty brilliant
I think you're pretty cute.

#580962 - 12/18/07 04:15 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by cherub_rocker1979:
[
If a student plays beautifully while 'making faces' or staring at the ceiling than you shouldn't try to change them. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Why not learn to play beautifully without distracting mannerisms? I would guess for some this would be very difficult(and perhaps not even possible), but I think that for most it would be quite easy to adjust.

#580963 - 12/18/07 05:24 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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Quote
Originally posted by apple*:
i think it's pretty brilliant
What is pretty brilliant?


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#580964 - 12/18/07 05:58 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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coming straight down from above for brilliance and volume.. (rather than from the side)

i do find a beautiful tone with that attack.. and the thought of building a little suspense as well is very appealing. I like to get the congregation excited.

i'm pretty simple.. these things are novel to me.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#580965 - 12/18/07 07:04 PM Re: Ceiling staring  
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For a fairly thourough discussion of the advantages of dropping the forarm from a height as opposed to moving the forarm horizontally, check out this thread.

http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?/topic/2/14612.html

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

#580966 - 12/19/07 05:05 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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The question of dropping any part of the arm vertically as opposed to a lateral movement is a red herring. I have no problem with what people imagine they do (a bit more with some people's imagined results) but I don't see the point of basing a whole method of playing on a delusion. And, from a pedagogical view-point, it is far preferable to describe the actual movements used rather than imagined fancies that might lead there. When people start talking about refinements to dropping the arm they are invariably talking about something that is not dropping the arm.

The reason some people take so long to assimilate this so-called technique is that it just doesn't stand up to reason and they don't really know what the teacher is looking for until the teacher says they have it. What a state of affairs.


John


Vasa inania multum strepunt.
#580967 - 12/20/07 09:31 AM Re: Ceiling staring  
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i must say, that after a few days of incorporating the notion that the hand should drop directly onto the keys (in any style of legato or nonlegato attack) has affected my playing profoundly especially for the ensemble work.

it provides such clarity..

any way, thanks for that notion.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
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