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12 words of wisdom on practice and performance by Burton Kaplan

The Manhattan School of Music pedagogue offered the following guidance to violinist Ariane Todes when she attended his Magic Mountain Music Farm Practice Marathon Retreat in upstate New York this summer

August 21, 2014

‘Music isn’t about right pitches. Pitch is more like impressionist painting marks – you can’t look too close up, you have to look from a distance. The trick is to play patterns of notes so that the notes that matter are in tune enough’  

‘Live in the moment with a sense of what you’re capable of, but accept reality’

‘If you can’t define the problem you can’t fix it’

‘To make great music you need to be able to feel and think at the same time. To guide yourself well you need to know about yourself’

‘We have to train ourselves by how we speak. We don’t think about breath or how we move our mouth when we talk. The connection from what you want to hear has to govern all your actions so you don’t think about the actions: hearing it makes it happen’

‘The classical player who repeats what they played yesterday is a dead player’

‘Any intention is better than no intention’

‘Most people see pitch and hook on to it, with the rhythm in the background, which makes no musical sense. When we’re taught rhythm, we’re taught around the barline – we’re not taught to perceive patterns’

‘If you want to explore you have to be willing to go past the boundary, otherwise you’ll never know where the boundary is’

‘This is not music theory: this is performance reality – your heart, your body and a sense of wholeness. When it comes together it feels wonderful and if it doesn’t feel wonderful it’s not good enough’

‘Without a decision you don’t have intention and without intention you don’t get money. Don’t think that the audience doesn’t know’

‘Dynamics is a great term as long as you don’t think it means loud and soft. It means every variation in sound you make to create meaning. Loud and soft is the most trivial element, just part of the picture’

Photo: Noralee Walker

Ariane Todes writes about the Magic Mountain Music Farm in The Strad’s education focus September issue, out now.

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