Go out and listen to something…

March 27, 2006


Filed under: music, music education — burnett @ 9:24 am

originally posted March 18, 2006:�

A student in this studio who is also a teacher took a moment to ask a question that is so obvious, one wonders why it is not the most important question to be grappled with by the Classical Music performing community, notably the pianists.

� � � � � � � � � � � “Why wasn’t I taught to think in terms of harmonic progression and content of the tonality, chord notes, etc. when learning ‘classical’ repertoire as a child?� Why am I only learning this in a “jazz” class?”
Telemann, Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin, et al, were notorious extemporaneous performers.� The idea of being offered a melody from the audience and making a composition with it on the fly is an old one, and this skill was part of the life with these and many other composer/performers.� So if this skill was alive in 1850, why is it dead today?� When did it die?� Why did it die?�

Defense #1:� In defense of the pianists, the tradition of classical piano playing has so all-encompassing in terms of epoch and thus massive repertoire, that there is no time to master the skills of improvisation.� The contemporary professional ‘classical’ pianist can perform music of 300 years, including exacting performance styles of 15 generations of composers.� The fortepiano and harpsichord repertoire has different demands from the Classical period, the Romantic Period, the Impressionist Period, the Modern Period, Post-Modern, etc.�

Any recital by the latest hot pianist at the Kennedy Center will include repertoire spanning at least 200 if not 300 years and at least 3 continents.� So let’s allow the pianist to say that they only have time for so much in life, and with the exacting demands of the piano performance circuit, they did not have time to also develop as a composer and improvisational performer.� Hence, the composer and performer are two different people.�

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