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How much do you "emote" when you play?

Posted By: rach3master

How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 05:17 PM

We're all aware of many professional pianists' tendencies to bring their interpretations not just into the music, but also into their facial expressions and body movements. There are a range of opinions on this, but personally I find it somewhat distracting and try to keep these quirks out of my own playing as much as possible. Sometimes though I'll close my eyes if there's an especially serene moment that I'm playing through (and it's easy enough that I don't risk making easy blunders without my full attention on the keys!)

Do you guys "emote" when you play?
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 06:17 PM

Nope.
Posted By: dogperson

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 06:24 PM

Very subtle facial changes.. no eyes getting guidance from the ceiling and no huge hand gestures. I, too, will occasionally close my eyes.
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 06:33 PM

Originally Posted by dogperson
Very subtle facial changes.. no eyes getting guidance from the ceiling and no huge hand gestures. I, too, will occasionally close my eyes.


I tried looking at the ceiling during a lesson and was promptly told: “There is nothing up there!” Point taken. When I stare too long at the music, I get told: “There is nothing new there, stop looking at the music!” When I was bobbing around like one of the crazy bobbing bird toys, I was told to cut it out and not show how difficult it was to play. When I was waving my hands over the keyboard, I was told that there was no time to do that! For all of this advice, I am grateful to my teacher.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 06:41 PM

Originally Posted by LarryK
I tried looking at the ceiling during a lesson and was promptly told: “There is nothing up there!” Point taken. When I stare too long at the music, I get told: “There is nothing new there, stop looking at the music!” When I was bobbing around like one of the crazy bobbing bird toys, I was told to cut it out and not show how difficult it was to play. When I was waving my hands over the keyboard, I was told that there was no time to do that!

Your teacher cracks me up! 🤣
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 06:52 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by LarryK
I tried looking at the ceiling during a lesson and was promptly told: “There is nothing up there!” Point taken. When I stare too long at the music, I get told: “There is nothing new there, stop looking at the music!” When I was bobbing around like one of the crazy bobbing bird toys, I was told to cut it out and not show how difficult it was to play. When I was waving my hands over the keyboard, I was told that there was no time to do that!

Your teacher cracks me up! 🤣


She is wonderful, I feel lucky to have found her. I pay for honesty, and I get it.

Regarding my drunken bobbing around, she made the point that by doing that, I cut off my peripheral vision when my head is close to the keyboard, making it harder to play. That makes a lot of sense to me.
Posted By: Sibylle

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 06:56 PM

When I don't watch myself, I do. But that's usually when I also start to slump and raise my shoulders and do all sorts of things that aren't good for my injured joints, so I try to "sit straight, dammit!" myself in my head every so often smile
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 07:22 PM

Originally Posted by Sibylle
When I don't watch myself, I do. But that's usually when I also start to slump and raise my shoulders and do all sorts of things that aren't good for my injured joints, so I try to "sit straight, dammit!" myself in my head every so often smile


Ah, yes, I forgot that one. In the middle of playing a piece, my teacher came over and pushed my shoulders down. Now, I try to remember to keep my shoulders down.
Posted By: WhoDwaldi

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 07:25 PM

Not much. Oh, I "feel" the music, but I am too busy for superfluous motions.

People love or hate that, and sometimes I feel it gets held against pianists who don't emote, especially with YouTube comments ("all technique and no soul," blah, blah, blah). Mostly the people commenting aren't really listening.

One of the best pianists I have ever known was something of a child prodigy. This person sways in circles while playing to the point that said person's left foot comes off the floor. I guess no teacher ever said, "Don't do that!", out of fear of messing up a star student. 😆

You do have to be carefull about overly expressive playing (musically) when slow practicing, because it doesn't always speed up well--it can hinder developing speed.

I don't really care if people do emote, dress well or poorly, are attractive or not, providing they play well and vibrantly. Just don't sway in circles that are too large. laugh
Posted By: bennevis

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 07:42 PM

Originally Posted by LarryK


I tried looking at the ceiling during a lesson and was promptly told: “There is nothing up there!” Point taken.

According to Rubinstein, there are flies on the ceiling that some pianists see. Whether he meant auditory hallucinations or real flies (and a flies' nest - OK, an entomologist will say that flies don't make nests, but I beg to disagree: why else would flies fly on the ceiling?) on some ceilings which strut themselves for select pianists, he didn't elaborate.

Be that as it may, I long ago lost my studied poker-faced impassiveness that I perfected as a kid to hide my self-consciousness when playing in front of others, including my teachers. These days, when I perform, I let myself go. I'm far too old to worry about what people think of my facial expressions (frowning when the composer demands more than he should, scowling when he's really gone far too far and should be stopped forthwith, smiling when things are easy; and everything in between) or my arm or body movements, or my occasional stare at a, er, wasp on the wall in front of me as I imagine it to be the reincarnation of the composer whose music I'm flaying, er, I mean, playing.
Posted By: Ted

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 08:03 PM

Yes, all over the place during improvisation but not so much when playing pieces. I got so excited once I broke a leg off the seat and ended up on the floor. I don't stand up, pull faces and wrestle with the instrument like Jarrett though, and I'm not sure it is emotional, probably just unconscious habit. I wasn't even aware how much I did it until I was testing my wife's camera. Talk about ursine groping. It's why I never post videos, I look like a spavined polar bear.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 08:06 PM

Somewhere in between LL and Heifetz.
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 08:28 PM

Nothing too excessive but still try to make the hands look less mechanical. When it comes to facial expression, watching Yo-Yo Ma perform is always an experience. Just before he starts playing a note, you can see his facial expression changes from a common man on the street to a someone thinking deeply with his eyes half shut.
Posted By: MIchael

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 08:53 PM

Hello all,
This is my first post. I have seen discussions on this subject on other forums and You Tube where the comments are not favorable to pianists who emote, and just have to finally ask this question. Could someone explain to me why is it ok when a person singing emotes (the voice is their instrument), including facial expressions, moving hands/arms and dancing, and not ok for a pianist to emote? Actually, sometimes singers are criticized for not emoting enough on TV shows, i.e. American Idol, America's Got Talent, etc.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 09:18 PM

Originally Posted by MIchael
Hello all,This is my first post. I have seen discussions on this subject on other forums and You Tube where the comments are not favorable to pianists who emote, and just have to finally ask this question. Could someone explain to me why is it ok when a person singing emotes (the voice is their instrument), including facial expressions, moving hands/arms and dancing, and not ok for a pianist to emote? Actually, sometimes singers are criticized for not emoting enough on TV shows, i.e. American Idol, America's Got Talent, etc.
I can't answer your question but regarding the opinions about classical pianists emoting. But I think the opinion on PW and other places about showing emotion is mixed. Some think the pianist should show no emotion, some only mind what looks like fake emotion, some don't mind or even like extreme display of emotion, and everything in between those views.

One also should remember that the very close up and frontal views quite frequent on YT videos would not be possible for almost everyone in an audience. To get those views the audience member would have to be seated somewhere around the curve in the side of the piano.
Posted By: BruceD

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 09:33 PM

Originally Posted by MIchael
Hello all,
This is my first post. I have seen discussions on this subject on other forums and You Tube where the comments are not favorable to pianists who emote, and just have to finally ask this question. Could someone explain to me why is it ok when a person singing emotes (the voice is their instrument), including facial expressions, moving hands/arms and dancing, and not ok for a pianist to emote?[...]


Since you bring up singers, specifically, I think that one has to take into consideration one critical difference: the singer is telling a story, relating an event, expressing a feeling, all of which are connected to a text. In other words, singers (depending upon the type of song, of course) are, in part, actors and they need to, within reasonable limits, show that they are feeling the text they are singing. What could be more incongruous than a singer singing about lost love, joy or exhilaration with a straight face and no sense of personal involvement?

Pianists and other instrumentalists are most frequently playing "abstract" music that has no text. I can't quite imagine how one would convincingly "emote" to an Allemande from a Bach Partita, for example, unless s/he is grimacing to show how difficult the music is. In this abstract music an instrumentalist's over-emoting can often be a distraction from the pure music being performed. That said, I don't think the instrumentalist needs to perform like an automaton, but what emoting that might be involved should somehow be in character with the music without detracting from it. It's a fine line some overstep.

Regards,
Posted By: AndrewJCW

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 09:54 PM

Interesting observation Michael.

Firstly I would say, I think it's completely normal to have expressive body language when you play any instrument, including piano. For many people, or at least many styles - of music, emotional connection is a key part of playing and listening to music. You expect the performer to be experiencing an emotional connection to the music and to see that in their body language. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a 'professional pianist' that plays without that, in virtually any style. One particular youtube pianist 'scholar' does come to mind that plays like that and the effect is very dry - to me at least.

The pianists that play with these exaggerated flamboyant expressions do tend to get comments yes, but even they aren't really rare. If you watch someone play a beautiful romantic piece you fully expect them to be look like they're telling a poem to Juliet up a balcony, and if they're playing a blues or funk groove you expect them to be grimacing along with the beat like they're battling a toothache. That's just what we accept as normal.

I'm not sure being all 'woke' and enlightened and saying it's just about the music and body expression is irreverent is actually possible or helpful. If you don't want to exaggerate it or think some people go overboard then that's fine, but I think you're kidding yourself if you think body language is entirely irrelevant to a performance. That's just not how humans or music works. If you want to put on a solo recital that's all new age and has a the pianist behind a black curtain than more power to you, but I don't think it will sell out. I don't think you need to have your hands rise up like they're attached to a hot air balloon after every chord, but if someone wants to do that then I certainly wouldn't hold it against them.

Voice is I think pretty clearly the most expressive instrument there is. It is a very personal and connected thing to someone's identity and character. The control of pitch and vibrato and register, the connection to language, the role within the music, it all comes together to make an instrument that is just incredibly expressive and connected to emotion and 'human'. Contrast that with piano where, when it comes down to it, all you can do is play a note - at a certain velocity and for a certain duration - but that's it. Yes we can create expression with phrasing and voicing and dynamics, but at the end of the day there are very hard limitations in what we can do. I think in a way that drive to pianists to be even more emotive, striving to coax the emotion out of the instrument.

One thing that changed my mind on this was - every classical forum's favourite punching bag - Lang Lang. Obviously a very flamboyant - verging on ridiculous - pianist. But after watching a few of his masterclasses on youtube( eg. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiVD6iKuc1U) somehow I came to understand his expressions a lot more. They are very much there to communicate the piece. And even a type of communication that (judging from the masterclasses) excellent pianists struggle to articulate. But to him they are very important. It's not just notes on a page, or a technical exercise, or a judge's score. It's a feeling of urgency or mystery, tension and release - that is the aim of the performance. And does the ridiculous arm gestures help with that? Well to him I think it does. And that's good enough for me. Yes I realise this make me a lowbrow mainstream classical listener. Oh wellz.
Posted By: Copake

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 10:23 PM

Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Nothing too excessive but still try to make the hands look less mechanical. When it comes to facial expression, watching Yo-Yo Ma perform is always an experience. Just before he starts playing a note, you can see his facial expression changes from a common man on the street to a someone thinking deeply with his eyes half shut.


Interesting you should mention Yo-Yo Ma. I see him at least once a year at Tanglewood and I always avert my eyes when he plays. I can't bear to see what appears to be so much anguish in his face. Another performer whom I can't bear to watch is Andre Watts. I don't think it is necessary for a musician to make a performance appear to be hard work or a task infused with pain and suffering. Horowitz, on the other hand, makes everything look easy.

Just a personal thing, I suppose.
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 11:06 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by LarryK


I tried looking at the ceiling during a lesson and was promptly told: “There is nothing up there!” Point taken.

According to Rubinstein, there are flies on the ceiling that some pianists see. Whether he meant auditory hallucinations or real flies (and a flies' nest - OK, an entomologist will say that flies don't make nests, but I beg to disagree: why else would flies fly on the ceiling?) on some ceilings which strut themselves for select pianists, he didn't elaborate.


Yeah, I’ll try that line of reasoning with my teacher. I’m pretty sure her response will be: “And if there are flies up there, what concern is it of yours?” I’d have to answer, um, none.

My favorite Rubinstein story is the one recounted here:

https://keyofstrawberry.com/arthur-and-sergei/

by Arnold Steinhardt, former first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet.
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 11:12 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by LarryK
I tried looking at the ceiling during a lesson and was promptly told: “There is nothing up there!” Point taken. When I stare too long at the music, I get told: “There is nothing new there, stop looking at the music!” When I was bobbing around like one of the crazy bobbing bird toys, I was told to cut it out and not show how difficult it was to play. When I was waving my hands over the keyboard, I was told that there was no time to do that!

Your teacher cracks me up! 🤣


That is so true!
Posted By: dogperson

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/22/19 11:21 PM

LarryK
Next time you want to wave your hands over the keys, tell your teacher it is a secret, magical evocation of the piano gods.
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 12:37 AM

Originally Posted by Copake
Interesting you should mention Yo-Yo Ma. I see him at least once a year at Tanglewood and I always avert my eyes when he plays. I can't bear to see what appears to be so much anguish in his face. Another performer whom I can't bear to watch is Andre Watts. I don't think it is necessary for a musician to make a performance appear to be hard work or a task infused with pain and suffering. Horowitz, on the other hand, makes everything look easy.

Just a personal thing, I suppose.


There was another famous concert led by the violin teacher Roberta Guaspari who started the East Harlem violin program in NYC and taught in 3 public schools. There was a benefit fundraising concert at Carnegie Hall in 1993 for the violin program later included in a documentary "Small Wonders". The students were playing Bach's Concerto in D minor for 2 violins with a number of professional violinists including: Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Mark O'Connor, Midori, John Blake, Ida Kavafian, Anni Kavafian, Roberta Guaspari, Diane Monroe, Karen Briggs, Arnold Steinhardt, Michael Tree... The performance video is online. The piece is not easy to put together. The camera went around the stage showing the different performers and you see the students with happy, smiling faces, not the typical solemn look Yo-Yo Ma would show.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 01:14 AM

Originally Posted by Copake
Interesting you should mention Yo-Yo Ma. I see him at least once a year at Tanglewood and I always avert my eyes when he plays. I can't bear to see what appears to be so much anguish in his face. Another performer whom I can't bear to watch is Andre Watts. I don't think it is necessary for a musician to make a performance appear to be hard work or a task infused with pain and suffering.
I love Yoyo's expressions and emoting. I never thought of anguish when I watch him...just love of music. But I agree with you about Watts. For me, his expressions are among the very most annoying of any pianist I can think of, and I usually don't mind facial expressions(even on Uchida, who quite a few find annoying).
Posted By: rach3master

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 01:49 AM

I've never heard of Andre Watts so I found a random Youtube video and watched with the audio muted. When I came across this passage I actually laughed out loud.
https://youtu.be/BGfreVK9Q4g?t=253
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 02:21 AM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Copake
Interesting you should mention Yo-Yo Ma. I see him at least once a year at Tanglewood and I always avert my eyes when he plays. I can't bear to see what appears to be so much anguish in his face. Another performer whom I can't bear to watch is Andre Watts. I don't think it is necessary for a musician to make a performance appear to be hard work or a task infused with pain and suffering.
I love Yoyo's expressions and emoting. I never thought of anguish when I watch him...just love of music. But I agree with you about Watts. For me, his expressions are among the very most annoying of any pianist I can think of, and I usually don't mind facial expressions(even on Uchida, who quite a few find annoying).



I agree on both points made here.
Posted By: MIchael

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 03:23 AM

Andrew, thank you for your response. Very well thought out and stated.
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 03:47 AM

Originally Posted by dogperson
LarryK
Next time you want to wave your hands over the keys, tell your teacher it is a secret, magical evocation of the piano gods.


Oh, my teacher saw right through my hand waving and recognized it for what it was, namely, that I was lost, and didn’t know where I was going, and that I was making the problem worse by disconnecting myself from the keyboard.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 04:14 AM

Originally Posted by LarryK
Originally Posted by dogperson
LarryK
Next time you want to wave your hands over the keys, tell your teacher it is a secret, magical evocation of the piano gods.


Oh, my teacher saw right through my hand waving and recognized it for what it was, namely, that I was lost, and didn’t know where I was going, and that I was making the problem worse by disconnecting myself from the keyboard.

So when you are lost, your teacher just wants you to stay in the last known position until you can remember where you are?
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 04:32 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by LarryK
Originally Posted by dogperson
LarryK
Next time you want to wave your hands over the keys, tell your teacher it is a secret, magical evocation of the piano gods.


Oh, my teacher saw right through my hand waving and recognized it for what it was, namely, that I was lost, and didn’t know where I was going, and that I was making the problem worse by disconnecting myself from the keyboard.

So when you are lost, your teacher just wants you to stay in the last known position until you can remember where you are?


No, she wants me to figure out a relatively straight line to get where I need to go without hovering over the keyboard like a drone. smile She pointed out that I was playing the piano with a box-like motion. off, up, over, down, when I needed a motion that more closely emulated an ellipse. I was playing the piano like West Point plebes who are forced to eat a square meal by moving their hand up from the plate, then into their mouths, and then out, and back down, instead of going directly to their mouths.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 04:46 AM

Originally Posted by LarryK
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by LarryK
Originally Posted by dogperson
LarryK
Next time you want to wave your hands over the keys, tell your teacher it is a secret, magical evocation of the piano gods.
Oh, my teacher saw right through my hand waving and recognized it for what it was, namely, that I was lost, and didn’t know where I was going, and that I was making the problem worse by disconnecting myself from the keyboard.
So when you are lost, your teacher just wants you to stay in the last known position until you can remember where you are?
No, she wants me to figure out a relatively straight line to get where I need to go without hovering over the keyboard like a drone. smile She pointed out that I was playing the piano with a box-like motion. off, up, over, down, when I needed a motion that more closely emulated an ellipse. I was playing the piano like West Point plebes who are forced to eat a square meal by moving their hand up from the plate, then into their mouths, and then out, and back down, instead of going directly to their mouths.

Well, that's not really lost then if you know where you are going. You know where you are going, you just don't know how to get there in a straight line (or better, in a nice arc). If you were really lost, you wouldn't even know where the destination should be. That occurs too sometimes, but it seems she isn't talking about the cases when you might be really lost, only when you aren't efficiently pathfinding.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 05:19 AM

Originally Posted by AndrewJCW
Firstly I would say, I think it's completely normal to have expressive body language when you play any instrument, including piano. For many people, or at least many styles - of music, emotional connection is a key part of playing and listening to music. You expect the performer to be experiencing an emotional connection to the music and to see that in their body language. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a 'professional pianist' that plays without that, in virtually any style. One particular youtube pianist 'scholar' does come to mind that plays like that and the effect is very dry - to me at least.
This really depends on what you mean by "expressive body language", and it's also a question of degree. Many/most of the pianists considered among the greatest played with very little excess motions of their arms or bodies. If you look at their faces you can see an emotional connection to the music but they also generally did not make extreme faces.

Among those who played with little extraneous body movements or extreme facial expressions I'd put Horowitz, Rubinstein, Rachmaninov, Hofmann, Richter, Gilels, Lupu, Kempff, Cliburn, Ashkenazy, Argerich, Arrau. Bolet, Hamelin, Hough, Sokolov, Barenboim, Gieseking, Cziffra, Lipatti, Kapell, Schiff,etc, Do you think any of those played with exaggerated motions or facial expressions?

It's only mostly in the last 20-30 or so years that some of the great performing pianists have shown lots of body or arm movements or extreme facial expressions. I can only think of a tiny number great pianists before that period that showed extreme body/arm movements(Gould) or facial expressions(Uchida, Serkin).

I'm not denying that the basically sedate stage presence of the pianists I listed might be in part due to their training. But, as far as classical pianists go, I can't agree with your comment that "I think you'd be hard pressed to find a 'professional pianist' that plays without that, in virtually any style."

Regarding the pianist you mention who plays with no body or facial expression, I think his quality of play is because he is far from a professional level pianist and not because of his restrained manner.

Originally Posted by AndrewJCW
The pianists that play with these exaggerated flamboyant expressions do tend to get comments yes, but even they aren't really rare. If you watch someone play a beautiful romantic piece you fully expect them to be look like they're telling a poem to Juliet up a balcony, and if they're playing a blues or funk groove you expect them to be grimacing along with the beat like they're battling a toothache. That's just what we accept as normal.
I think pianists who play with exaggerated movements or facial expressions are more common today but still quite rare. I can only think of a few that fit that category that are considered at the highest level although, again, it's a question of degree. One person's idea of exaggerated movement could be another person's idea of reasonable restrained. If one sees just a typical conservatory student one may see more exaggerated movement that among the greatest of today's pianists.

In the age of YouTube, there are often extreme close ups of a performer's face with a view as if one was located directly in front of them and only a few feet away. From that close up a fairly high number of pianists can seem to have fairly extreme expressions, but I don't put that group if the "extreme' category because virtually no one in the audience would see what that close up camera view catches.
Posted By: WildeJagd

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 11:08 AM

Very subtle facial expression.. close the eyes when I feel the music I'm playing...

But aside that, the only emote I do is whenever I play Chopin's 4th ballade.. I always tend to inhale and exhale deeply, whenever I play certain passages in that piece, and hold my breaths at certain moments.

This is also the trouble I have with Chopin... sometimes, I find it difficult to breathe the way I want to when playing his pieces. I'm not even sure if anyone else has the same issues as I do. xD
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 11:17 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

Well, that's not really lost then if you know where you are going. You know where you are going, you just don't know how to get there in a straight line (or better, in a nice arc). If you were really lost, you wouldn't even know where the destination should be. That occurs too sometimes, but it seems she isn't talking about the cases when you might be really lost, only when you aren't efficiently pathfinding.


No, I was lost and I did not know where I was going. I forgot to mention that I was playing too fast to figure out where I needed to go in time so I was hovering. I think I’ve pretty much broken myself of this bad habit now. I’m much better now at slowing down until I can execute the moves in time.

Yes, an arc, that was the diagram, and it’s what I meant by an ellipse vs a box, in terms of motion.

Playing fluidly is all about economy of motion and planning ahead. The same ideas appear in classical guitar playing, and probably with all instruments. With the classical guitar, you often have to play a single note in the beginning of a measure and form the shape of the chord above the fretboard, so as.to be ready to play the other notes.

The negative space above the fretboard is more important than the positive space on the fretboard, the notes you’re currently playing. I’m not sure if this applies to piano. On the piano, we have the advantage of being able to lay our fingers on the keys without making a sound. I can’t lay my fingers on strings like that, generally speaking, my fingers need to be in the air for the notes I’m not playing.

My guitar teacher used to tell his most advanced students that they should be able play a piece in their heads, without the instrument, and know at every note in the piece exactly where their left hand was supposed to be, and what shape it had to form. I wonder if pianists can do the same thing with both hands.
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 02:09 PM

Some people's facial expressions strike me as very silly while others' don't.

Trifonov is always pulling faces, but I always think he looks like a young child playing with toy soldiers. It's like he's orchestrating a battle with his teddy bears. I don't know him, but I always feel it is unintentional, and just a reflection of his thoughts.

Mitsuko Uchida seems very genuine to me as well. It's like she has her "music face", which is the same regardless of what she's playing. It's like she's in ecstasy. I never feel like she actually cares. She's the same when she's listening to the orchestra and not playing.

I love Wilhelm Kempff's "ecstatic visions" face, like he's gazing into a realm known only unto him.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 02:29 PM

Originally Posted by LarryK
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Well, that's not really lost then if you know where you are going. You know where you are going, you just don't know how to get there in a straight line (or better, in a nice arc). If you were really lost, you wouldn't even know where the destination should be. That occurs too sometimes, but it seems she isn't talking about the cases when you might be really lost, only when you aren't efficiently pathfinding.
No, I was lost and I did not know where I was going. I forgot to mention that I was playing too fast to figure out where I needed to go in time so I was hovering. I think I’ve pretty much broken myself of this bad habit now. I’m much better now at slowing down until I can execute the moves in time.

I'm lost myself, now. ☺️ How can you be lost and not lost? That is, how can you be lost and not know where you're going, but also be able "figure out a relatively straight line to get where [you] need to go" (which is someplace you don't know) since there are going to be at least dozens of arcs leading to anywhere you could possibly need to go? Hovering or not hovering will not help you remember where you need to go, at least it's not a memory trick I've ever heard of. ...

I take that back. It may be the contrary is true. When my daughter tries to remember something she's forgotten, she sometimes waves her hands around and thinks that helps her remember! 🤣 So perhaps your teacher is wrong and hovering is a better strategy for remember where you have to go when lost - at least it would be for my daughter! 🤣
Posted By: j&j

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 03:15 PM

I’m still trying to get out of the bad habit of quietly moving my jaw to the side for a technically challenging piece. It looks silly so I want to break that habit. If I start daydreaming during practice of a longer more difficult piece, I get lost and have to backtrack several measures to find my place again but I try to stay focused if I’m playing with others around. I want to be heard and remembered for my playing not some weird facial expression or exotic hand or body movements when finishing a piece. Truthfully I’d rather play behind a curtain if I could.
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 03:23 PM

Originally Posted by LarryK

My guitar teacher used to tell his most advanced students that they should be able play a piece in their heads, without the instrument, and know at every note in the piece exactly where their left hand was supposed to be, and what shape it had to form. I wonder if pianists can do the same thing with both hands.


I think that's just one of those things that happens eventually. For me, it was one of the benefits of slow deliberate practice.
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 03:31 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by LarryK
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Well, that's not really lost then if you know where you are going. You know where you are going, you just don't know how to get there in a straight line (or better, in a nice arc). If you were really lost, you wouldn't even know where the destination should be. That occurs too sometimes, but it seems she isn't talking about the cases when you might be really lost, only when you aren't efficiently pathfinding.
No, I was lost and I did not know where I was going. I forgot to mention that I was playing too fast to figure out where I needed to go in time so I was hovering. I think I’ve pretty much broken myself of this bad habit now. I’m much better now at slowing down until I can execute the moves in time.

I'm lost myself, now. ☺️ How can you be lost and not lost? That is, how can you be lost and not know where you're going, but also be able "figure out a relatively straight line to get where [you] need to go" (which is someplace you don't know) since there are going to be at least dozens of arcs leading to anywhere you could possibly need to go? Hovering or not hovering will not help you remember where you need to go, at least it's not a memory trick I've ever heard of. ...

I take that back. It may be the contrary is true. When my daughter tries to remember something she's forgotten, she sometimes waves her hands around and thinks that helps her remember! 🤣 So perhaps your teacher is wrong and hovering is a better strategy for remember where you have to go when lost - at least it would be for my daughter! 🤣


I said: “ she wants me to figure out a relatively straight line to get where I need to go without hovering over the keyboard like a drone.” I didn’t say I could do it. Yes, I think my hand waving was like your daughter’s attempts at remembering something. It doesn’t work for me and I lose precious time flapping around like a bird.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 04:43 PM

Originally Posted by LarryK
Yes, I think my hand waving was like your daughter’s attempts at remembering something. It doesn’t work for me and I lose precious time flapping around like a bird.

Yes! My daughter flaps like a flightless bird! And sometimes it helps her to remember... or at least this is what she believes! 🤣
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 05:36 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by LarryK
Yes, I think my hand waving was like your daughter’s attempts at remembering something. It doesn’t work for me and I lose precious time flapping around like a bird.

Yes! My daughter flaps like a flightless bird! And sometimes it helps her to remember... or at least this is what she believes! 🤣


Well, it’s clear that I’m not going to get away with being Flappy Bird during my lessons. It’s not helping my playing, that’s for sure, so no loss.

My teacher said something interesting with regards to my movements and how I held myself at the piano. She said that I wasn’t used to having a public persona, and that’s true. I’ve always been content to be the ghost in the machine, avoiding the stage at all costs. Playing the piano forces one onto the stage, at least in front of one’s teacher, family and friends.

Posted By: AndrewJCW

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 06:08 PM

@pianolover

Sorry I didn’t realise this was the pianist forum, I thought it was ABF. I was just posting as a very casual/newbie classical fan. I think it’s an interesting topic but I probably wouldn’t have chimed in as I did if I knew which forum I was in. I liked reading your reply and others, but I do try to just stick to reading here. I’m going to look up some videos of the pianists you listed and think about my (weakly held) position.
Posted By: dogperson

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 06:27 PM

Originally Posted by AndrewJCW
@pianolover

Sorry I didn’t realise this was the pianist forum, I thought it was ABF. I was just posting as a very casual/newbie classical fan. I think it’s an interesting topic but I probably wouldn’t have chimed in as I did if I knew which forum I was in. I liked reading your reply and others, but I do try to just stick to reading here. I’m going to look up some videos of the pianists you listed and think about my (weakly held) position.


Hey Andrew
There is no skill test required to post to the pianists forum... so keep posting. BTW: I found your post on this thread to be well-considered and written
Posted By: AndrewJCW

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 06:33 PM

I know it’s not a rule or anything, I just don’t feel I know enough about the topic here, along with my naturally argumentative personality it could get me into trouble. I like posting about classical things on ABF if they pop up to offer a fresh perspective but I’m more than content to just read here. I often ‘browse’ just by clicking active threads so it’s not always obvious to me which forum a thread is in.
Posted By: Rania

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 08:55 PM

I once had a discussion about this with others in the comment section of Beethoven's Op.111 by Yeol Eum Son, who makes a lot of faces when she plays. She is a phenomenal musician, no question. But my own feeling is that, as a listener, I am much more moved when I am not explicitly told by the pianist's face, "this is a moving moment. I am moved. Be moved." My former teacher was very particular about watching and controlling one's own facial expressions, because most of the time they are tension seeking a way out. He said that for him, it used to be the left leg that would swing. For me, it was and still is the eyes and the forehead- I knit my brows and tense my eyes so much that they often hurts for hours after performing. What if you pour all of that tension into your playing, he asked? It takes a lot of discipline and a lot of sober, conscious control. But it also takes trust: trust that it is all there in the music, that it will communicate, that there's no need to show it physically. I once watched an old video of myself playing, and there was a moment when I moved my head lightly up and down in affirmation as a I struck an expressive resolution. I was immediately repulsed at myself. I thought, that moment would have been a thousand times more special if I hadn't let myself show that it was. As an audience member, when I see heavy grimacing or hear audible breathing and mumbling, I do find it really distracting. My own feeling is that it's not entirely unconscious, or that one is at least capable of controlling it if one chose to, and that there is a certain dignity in not pouring it all out for display. Because it does feel like an expression of a certain tension or chaos in one's head, and I feel like all inner chaos needs to be stilled and a perfect inner quiet achieved in order for music to speak freely. Some music, at least, really needs it- Brahms comes to mind, but also Beethoven's late sonatas, or Schumann's "innig" movements and songs. For me, it is the greatest challenge to find that place. But when a pianist walks you through the greatest moments in complete outward stillness, the effect can be transformative, because then the tension and the emotion in the music itself are powerful beyond words. Of course you can see and feel the intense emotion in their eyes, in their intense concentration, in the aura they emit, but to me the greatest performances and the greatest climaxes are those that are delivered without a grimace.

(Not saying it is not incredibly difficult, but to me it is something to strive for).



Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 09:32 PM

Originally Posted by Rania
I once had a discussion about this with others in the comment section of Beethoven's Op.111 by Yeol Eum Son, who makes a lot of faces when she plays. She is a phenomenal musician, no question. But my own feeling is that, as a listener, I am much more moved when I am not explicitly told by the pianist's face, "this is a moving moment. I am moved. Be moved." My former teacher was very particular about watching and controlling one's own facial expressions, because most of the time they are tension seeking a way out. He said that for him, it used to be the left leg that would swing. For me, it was and still is the eyes and the forehead- I knit my brows and tense my eyes so much that they often hurts for hours after performing. What if you pour all of that tension into your playing, he asked? It takes a lot of discipline and a lot of sober, conscious control. But it also takes trust: trust that it is all there in the music, that it will communicate, that there's no need to show it physically. I once watched an old video of myself playing, and there was a moment when I moved my head lightly up and down in affirmation as a I struck an expressive resolution. I was immediately repulsed at myself. I thought, that moment would have been a thousand times more special if I hadn't let myself show that it was. As an audience member, when I see heavy grimacing or hear audible breathing and mumbling, I do find it really distracting. My own feeling is that it's not entirely unconscious, or that one is at least capable of controlling it if one chose to, and that there is a certain dignity in not pouring it all out for display. Because it does feel like an expression of a certain tension or chaos in one's head, and I feel like all inner chaos needs to be stilled and a perfect inner quiet achieved in order for music to speak freely. Some music, at least, really needs it- Brahms comes to mind, but also Beethoven's late sonatas, or Schumann's "innig" movements and songs. For me, it is the greatest challenge to find that place. But when a pianist walks you through the greatest moments in complete outward stillness, the effect can be transformative, because then the tension and the emotion in the music itself are powerful beyond words. Of course you can see and feel the intense emotion in their eyes, in their intense concentration, in the aura they emit, but to me the greatest performances and the greatest climaxes are those that are delivered without a grimace.

(Not saying it is not incredibly difficult, but to me it is something to strive for).





Beautifully said, thank you. Yes, there is a certain dignity in stillness.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 09:56 PM

Originally Posted by Rania
But my own feeling is that, as a listener, I am much more moved when I am not explicitly told by the pianist's face, "this is a moving moment. I am moved. Be moved."

You're making all sorts of unfounded assumptions.

Why not just close your eyes, if concert pianists' facial expressions or body movements bother you? Why do you think they're putting on an act, or suffer from tension? (Aren't you make the mistake of projecting your own feelings and tension problems on others?) Don't you think there's a possibility that they're actually more relaxed by letting go of inhibitions?

As I mentioned earlier, I was putting on an act when I adopted a forced poker face as a kid, and stifling 'excess movements' when playing in front of others (mainly my teacher, of course).
When I'm practicing at home, I of course don't adopt a self-conscious poker face; and since I restarted piano in 2010, and then started giving recitals, I stopped putting on an act (because I'm past caring what people think of me, at my age).......but I had no idea what I actually looked like until I watched a video of myself playing when I made a video recording for a piano website a few years ago. I no longer had the expression of Rodin's Le Penseur that I once consciously adopted, but I did make more body movements and facial expressions that I expected, though nothing to frighten the horses....

And I certainly play a lot freer and with more expression that I ever did as a student.

My advice to you is: Lighten up! (As Alfred B. said: Music doesn't have to be entirely serious yippie)
Posted By: AaronSF

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/23/19 11:50 PM

Originally Posted by rach3master
I've never heard of Andre Watts so I found a random Youtube video and watched with the audio muted. When I came across this passage I actually laughed out loud.
https://youtu.be/BGfreVK9Q4g?t=253


Never heard of Andre Watts. Oh my. I feel so, so old! I can see why you find his mouthing of the rhythm amusing, but it could be worse. He could be singing along like Glenn Gould! Thanks to YouTube, we get these concert videos with close-ups of the pianists' faces and hands, allowing us to see all sorts of goings-on we would not notice live except maybe in the first 10 rows of the orchestra.

I don't gesticulate much at the keyboard because I'm so busy trying to play musically, which requires all my concentration. The emotion comes out in the music (if I'm playing well). No one needs to see me grimacing and swaying to and fro. To me playing is about an economy of gestures, and anything that doesn't directly contribute to my achieving the sound I think the composer wants is superfluous.

Argerich, e.g., doesn't emote much at all at the keyboard, yet her playing is very emotional. Same with Uchida. Horowitz, who had a certain degree of theatricality and could finish a piece with quite a flourish, showed little emotion while playing except for what came out in the music itself. Richter sways a bit, but not much. Even Yuja Wang of the flamboyant dresses and heels keeps her body language to a minimum.
Posted By: Sibylle

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 09:30 AM

Originally Posted by Rania
I once had a discussion about this with others in the comment section of Beethoven's Op.111 by Yeol Eum Son, who makes a lot of faces when she plays. She is a phenomenal musician, no question. But my own feeling is that, as a listener, I am much more moved when I am not explicitly told by the pianist's face, "this is a moving moment. I am moved. Be moved." My former teacher was very particular about watching and controlling one's own facial expressions, because most of the time they are tension seeking a way out. He said that for him, it used to be the left leg that would swing. For me, it was and still is the eyes and the forehead- I knit my brows and tense my eyes so much that they often hurts for hours after performing. What if you pour all of that tension into your playing, he asked? It takes a lot of discipline and a lot of sober, conscious control. But it also takes trust: trust that it is all there in the music, that it will communicate, that there's no need to show it physically. I once watched an old video of myself playing, and there was a moment when I moved my head lightly up and down in affirmation as a I struck an expressive resolution. I was immediately repulsed at myself. I thought, that moment would have been a thousand times more special if I hadn't let myself show that it was. As an audience member, when I see heavy grimacing or hear audible breathing and mumbling, I do find it really distracting. My own feeling is that it's not entirely unconscious, or that one is at least capable of controlling it if one chose to, and that there is a certain dignity in not pouring it all out for display. Because it does feel like an expression of a certain tension or chaos in one's head, and I feel like all inner chaos needs to be stilled and a perfect inner quiet achieved in order for music to speak freely. Some music, at least, really needs it- Brahms comes to mind, but also Beethoven's late sonatas, or Schumann's "innig" movements and songs. For me, it is the greatest challenge to find that place. But when a pianist walks you through the greatest moments in complete outward stillness, the effect can be transformative, because then the tension and the emotion in the music itself are powerful beyond words. Of course you can see and feel the intense emotion in their eyes, in their intense concentration, in the aura they emit, but to me the greatest performances and the greatest climaxes are those that are delivered without a grimace.

(Not saying it is not incredibly difficult, but to me it is something to strive for).


I really don't agree with this at all.

When I move, or my face moves, nobody sees it, as I'm only playing for myself. Assuming that a perfoming pianist does it for the sake of "show", is presumptious and probably incorrect, because pianists are usually fully focused on their playing. They couldn't care less, and have no "processing power" left to think about, what the expression on their face is. It's just a matter of personality that some emote more and some less.

I'm not saying there's never any element of showing off - with some people, there definitely is smile What I mean is that assuming that's always the case, goes too far and is most likely inaccurate.


Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 10:08 AM

I make a few frustrated looks from time to time, but not much more than that I guess. And seeing other players being more demonstrative in *facial expression* doesn't bother me. That can just be love of the music. What I *do* find distracting is swaying or other bodily movements, when it's excessive.
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 10:21 AM

Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
I make a few frustrated looks from time to time, but not much more than that I guess. And seeing other players being more demonstrative in *facial expression* doesn't bother me. That can just be love of the music. What I *do* find distracting is swaying or other bodily movements, when it's excessive.


Right. I think I was talking more about extreme physical movements of the body and not facial expressions, which, as many have pointed out, are usually not visible to most people in the audience.

I don’t think my teacher would be too upset with facial expressions but she’s not going to put up with bobbing and weaving when I can’t even play the music. I guess if I pulled off a virtuoso performance while flailing around she’d be more tolerant, then again, maybe not. It is distracting to see a lot of body movement.

My teacher told me that she has to work hard to dampen excessive body movement in many of her students. One student slammed her head into the keyboard lid. That’s excessive! Haha.
Posted By: Rania

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 01:21 PM

Originally Posted by Sibylle

When I move, or my face moves, nobody sees it, as I'm only playing for myself. Assuming that a perfoming pianist does it for the sake of "show", is presumptious and probably incorrect, because pianists are usually fully focused on their playing. They couldn't care less, and have no "processing power" left to think about, what the expression on their face is. It's just a matter of personality that some emote more and some less.

I'm not saying there's never any element of showing off - with some people, there definitely is smile What I mean is that assuming that's always the case, goes too far and is most likely inaccurate.



I did not at all mean to imply that they were showing off. That it is not entirely unconscious (what I said) does not mean it is insincere or fake- I completely agree with you that performing pianists couldn't care less who is watching and are fully focused on their playing. My point was that I personally think it is worth trying to control those movements early on, and everyone has their own- not for the sake of whoever is watching, but because it helps direct all of one's energy into one's playing, and it helps one listen very clearly and calmly to everything that one is doing. One can still play incredibly, and Yeol Eum Son is an example among many others, but certain performances can be even greater without it. This is curiously not only visual- phyical stillness and quiet do have a powerful effect on the music, at least in certain music, even when the listener is not looking. I feel it in recordings as well as in concerts, with eyes open or closed. Sometimes it takes just one note to hear that inner quiet or the absence of it. When I listen to the opening or the third movement of Franck's sonata, for example, or to the Andante of Brahms's F minor piano sonata with its incredible climax, or to Schumann's magical Wehmut, I want it to be told in absolute physical stillness, because I feel like the very greatest of moments necessitate that we silence everything else in order to listen to them. György Sebők said something to that effect: "The most difficult aspect (...) is trying to get a student to an emptiness, a still point, where (s)he can truly hear what (s)he is doing. Music has to flow out of the pianist, and in order for that to happen there has to be a quiet center." It is a struggle for me, and I am very far from it, but in those few moments when I manage to completely relax my face, to take a step "out" physically, I feel just how much more in control I am and how much more powerful the music itself can be, and it makes me think that this is something I want to work more on. This is most true in conducting as well and has been taught by many great conductors- that inner, focussed energy rid of all unnecessary movements and exaggerated expressions reaches other players, and consequently the audience, more directly. (Of course there are many examples that could contradict this, but it is one school of thought and of performance).

Like you said, there are of course some who do it to show off (and curiously, I've heard some of those very people accuse some of the greatest musicians with "coldness", just because they can't see any physical manifestation of emotion in their movements).
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 02:05 PM

Originally Posted by Rania
Originally Posted by Sibylle

When I move, or my face moves, nobody sees it, as I'm only playing for myself. Assuming that a perfoming pianist does it for the sake of "show", is presumptious and probably incorrect, because pianists are usually fully focused on their playing. They couldn't care less, and have no "processing power" left to think about, what the expression on their face is. It's just a matter of personality that some emote more and some less.

I'm not saying there's never any element of showing off - with some people, there definitely is smile What I mean is that assuming that's always the case, goes too far and is most likely inaccurate.



I did not at all mean to imply that they were showing off. That it is not entirely unconscious (what I said) does not mean it is insincere or fake- I completely agree with you that performing pianists couldn't care less who is watching and are fully focused on their playing. My point was that I personally think it is worth trying to control those movements early on, and everyone has their own- not for the sake of whoever is watching, but because it helps direct all of one's energy into one's playing, and it helps one listen very clearly and calmly to everything that one is doing. One can still play incredibly, and Yeol Eum Son is an example among many others, but certain performances can be even greater without it. This is curiously not only visual- phyical stillness and quiet do have a powerful effect on the music, at least in certain music, even when the listener is not looking. I feel it in recordings as well as in concerts, with eyes open or closed. Sometimes it takes just one note to hear that inner quiet or the absence of it. When I listen to the opening or the third movement of Franck's sonata, for example, or to the Andante of Brahms's F minor piano sonata with its incredible climax, or to Schumann's magical Wehmut, I want it to be told in absolute physical stillness, because I feel like the very greatest of moments necessitate that we silence everything else in order to listen to them. György Sebők said something to that effect: "The most difficult aspect (...) is trying to get a student to an emptiness, a still point, where (s)he can truly hear what (s)he is doing. Music has to flow out of the pianist, and in order for that to happen there has to be a quiet center." It is a struggle for me, and I am very far from it, but in those few moments when I manage to completely relax my face, to take a step "out" physically, I feel just how much more in control I am and how much more powerful the music itself can be, and it makes me think that this is something I want to work more on. This is most true in conducting as well and has been taught by many great conductors- that inner, focussed energy rid of all unnecessary movements and exaggerated expressions reaches other players, and consequently the audience, more directly. (Of course there are many examples that could contradict this, but it is one school of thought and of performance).

Like you said, there are of course some who do it to show off (and curiously, I've heard some of those very people accuse some of the greatest musicians with "coldness", just because they can't see any physical manifestation of emotion in their movements).


Excellent post. I’d like to suggest that you add a few paragraph breaks to make it easier for people to read your text. smile

I think economy of motion is important and I think you’re right that performances can be even greater without excessive motion.

I also study the classical guitar, when playing, I am not allowed any showy motions, lol. At one point in a master class with Sharon Isbin, a friend of mine was told was told by Sharon, oh, you’re playing with your left foot raised! I hadn’t noticed it. Sharon went on to say that that would cause a lot of tension. I tried it at home later, and sure enough, even a simple thing like raising one’s foot results in a lot of tension and is not helpful to playing, in my opinion.
Posted By: joggerjazz

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 02:25 PM

Someone told me once these movements are being taught now. He mentioned Curtis. I find it hard to believe.
Personally I don't care what motions people make but can do without vocal sounds or grunts.
If it's not in the score leave it out.
I liken it to watching tennis players. Those that grunt all the time become a distraction to me personally.
If that is a strategy taught to intimidate the opponent...sheez. If I want that I'll watch martial arts.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 03:23 PM

Originally Posted by joggerjazz
Someone told me once these movements are being taught now. He mentioned Curtis. I find it hard to believe.

Even before the conservatory, for example:

[Linked Image]

Quote
This unique series teaches skills used by professional pianists to make their performances more expressive and dramatic. Students will explore five keys for achieving performance artistry: color, pedaling, rubato/rhythmic freedom, characterization and choreography. In-depth information helps students understand the concepts of balance, voicing, pedal techniques, how to move at the piano.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 04:03 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by joggerjazz
Someone told me once these movements are being taught now. He mentioned Curtis. I find it hard to believe.

Even before the conservatory, for example:

[Linked Image]

Quote
This unique series teaches skills used by professional pianists to make their performances more expressive and dramatic. Students will explore five keys for achieving performance artistry: color, pedaling, rubato/rhythmic freedom, characterization and choreography. In-depth information helps students understand the concepts of balance, voicing, pedal techniques, how to move at the piano.
I doubt "choreography" means extraneous movements in this instance. It most likely refers to the most efficient movements of the hands, arms, and body when playing.

I would be shocked if extraneous movements are taught at Curtis or any conservatory. Most/all of the teachers there come from a time when extraneous motions were explicitly frowned upon.
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 04:13 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by joggerjazz
Someone told me once these movements are being taught now. He mentioned Curtis. I find it hard to believe.

Even before the conservatory, for example:

[Linked Image]

Quote
This unique series teaches skills used by professional pianists to make their performances more expressive and dramatic. Students will explore five keys for achieving performance artistry: color, pedaling, rubato/rhythmic freedom, characterization and choreography. In-depth information helps students understand the concepts of balance, voicing, pedal techniques, how to move at the piano.
I doubt "choreography" means extraneous movements in this instance. It most likely refers to the most efficient movements of the hands, arms, and body when playing.

I would be shocked if extraneous movements are taught at Curtis or any conservatory. Most/all of the teachers there come from a time when extraneous motions were explicitly frowned upon.


If I recall correctly, the student who banged her head on the piano was a Juilliard kid, but I can’t believe they teach extraneous physical motion at Juilliard. If they do, I want to see a video from the class, lol.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 04:23 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by joggerjazz
Someone told me once these movements are being taught now. He mentioned Curtis. I find it hard to believe.

Even before the conservatory, for example:

[Linked Image]

Quote
This unique series teaches skills used by professional pianists to make their performances more expressive and dramatic. Students will explore five keys for achieving performance artistry: color, pedaling, rubato/rhythmic freedom, characterization and choreography. In-depth information helps students understand the concepts of balance, voicing, pedal techniques, how to move at the piano.
I doubt "choreography" means extraneous movements in this instance. It most likely refers to the most efficient movements of the hands, arms, and body when playing.

I would be shocked if extraneous movements are taught at Curtis or any conservatory. Most/all of the teachers there come from a time when extraneous motions were explicitly frowned upon.

It does actually - at least movements that aren't clear to me how they connect to the music - others more experienced might explain how they are connected. For example, it teaches to lean "backwards" at certain points in the music. I understand leaning left or right for biomechanical reasons, but I don't see how leaning backwards can be connected to the music. I will post a screen shot of one page as an example when my music books are back out of storage - they are in storage during the renovation of my flat so I don't have access to this book. It might be after Thanksgiving.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 06:04 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
It does actually - at least movements that aren't clear to me how they connect to the music - others more experienced might explain how they are connected. For example, it teaches to lean "backwards" at certain points in the music. I understand leaning left or right for biomechanical reasons, but I don't see how leaning backwards can be connected to the music.
Although I don't know what leaning backwards would accomplish pianistically(and it would be a mistake to assume everything in the book is correct), I just can't imagine a book would teach a movement just for effect especially to beginners or intermediates. Leaning backwards unless it's just a tiny amount only look silly.

This does make me recall an hysterical incident at LL's Carnegie Hall debut. At the end of Chopin's Nocturne Op. 27 No.2, during the ascending scale in sixths he started leaning further and further back until he was at least 45 degrees from vertical. By the time he reached the final chord he had closed his eyes and then held that pose for what seemed forever. I wanted to should "Wake up!" but didn't have the nerve.
Posted By: BruceD

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 06:22 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
[...]For example, it teaches to lean "backwards" at certain points in the music. I understand leaning left or right for biomechanical reasons, but I don't see how leaning backwards can be connected to the music.[...]


There is a basic problem with a book that teaches movement or choreography at the piano - depending upon what such movement is. The first questions would be how much? how far? is this right? Without a teacher or the author of the book, some will take the instructions to extremes while others may not do it enough - if even doing it at all is considered appropriate.

Regards,
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 06:28 PM

Piano benches should probably come with seat belts or three point racing harnesses, and air bags.

Posted By: johnstaf

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 06:54 PM

Leaning back when playing near the middle of the keyboard allows the forearms to be parallel. I'm sure that's irrelevant here though.

Some people believe in choreographing the body so that different levels of rhythm and the flow of the phrase are reflected in body movements beyond the conventional mechanics of playing. Abby Whiteside taught the importance of reflecting the movement of music throughout the body. Maybe choreographing is too strong a term.

Martha Argerich often sways with the music, but it's very subtle.
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 07:08 PM

Of course course rhythm is part of the music, while emotion isn't.
Posted By: Peddler100

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 10:10 PM

I only emote when cursing mistakes I am making. smile Here is Keith Jarrett playing Over the Rainbow. On one hand I am put off my his overly exagerated movements but on the other very impressed that he can play when in those positions.

Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 10:56 PM

Originally Posted by johnstaf
Of course course rhythm is part of the music, while emotion isn't.
I dunno. Unless it's a purely sterile intellectual exercise, emotion is going to be as much a part of it as rhythm. In fact it's all probably intertwined. It's the reason music exists, for me. However, if I'm playing a joyful gigue I don't have to dance to it while I'm playing it.
Posted By: BruceD

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/24/19 11:38 PM

What johnstaf may be saying is that while rhythm is written into the music, emotion, per se, is not. Some may argue that a direction such as con molto espressione is emotion suggested, but emotion, itself, is not written into the music. Emotion in music, whatever that means and if any, is added by the performer.

Regards,
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/25/19 01:05 AM

Originally Posted by BruceD
Emotion in music, whatever that means and if any, is added by the performer.
I'd have to disagree. The emotion in the last movement of Beethoven's fifth or the "Farewell" sonata is right there in the music. It's as dependent on (or independent of) the performer as rhythm.
Posted By: LarryK

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/25/19 02:01 AM

I was playing a piece last week with my guitar trio and the instructions at a certain measure were:

avec emotion.

We joked that we should play the part before the instruction with absolutely no emotion, if that is possible, lol.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/25/19 05:02 AM

Well to be honest the only possibly "emotionless" stuff I could think of is probably "modern". Maybe Webern or machine-like minimalists etc. Late Liszt and the Impressionists are also somewhat "detached" sometimes. I guess then you could sway poker-faced to the rhythm. grin
Posted By: Ted

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/25/19 05:17 AM

Originally Posted by BruceD
What johnstaf may be saying is that while rhythm is written into the music, emotion, per se, is not. Some may argue that a direction such as con molto espressione is emotion suggested, but emotion, itself, is not written into the music. Emotion in music, whatever that means and if any, is added by the performer.

Regards,


I agree with Bruce and would actually go even further and assert that music is not a language and communicates nothing at all, with the listening brain imposing whatever meaning it pleases onto abstract sound.
Posted By: rmns2bseen

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/25/19 07:49 AM

Originally Posted by Ted
Originally Posted by BruceD
What johnstaf may be saying is that while rhythm is written into the music, emotion, per se, is not. Some may argue that a direction such as con molto espressione is emotion suggested, but emotion, itself, is not written into the music. Emotion in music, whatever that means and if any, is added by the performer.

Regards,


I agree with Bruce and would actually go even further and assert that music is not a language and communicates nothing at all, with the listening brain imposing whatever meaning it pleases onto abstract sound.

That would also apply to language itself. Those symbols communicate nothing at all.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: How much do you "emote" when you play? - 11/25/19 11:46 AM

Felix:
People often complain that music is too uncertain in its meaning, that what they should be thinking as they hear it is unclear, whereas everyone understands words. With me it is exactly the reverse, and not only in the context of an entire speech, but also with individual words. These, too, seem to me so uncertain, so vague, so easily misunderstood in comparison to genuine music that fills the soul with a thousand things better than words. The thoughts expressed to me by the music I love are not too indefinite to be put into words, but on the contrary, too definite.
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