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Classical music is like Shakespeare

December 7, 2013

Long ago I studied acting classes. Shakespeare is really tough to act, because you have to get every word of the script memorized perfectly and say it with every nuance with the author intended. If you are acting in a movie, hopefully the director is not so anal retentive to hold you to that high of a standard. If you say the line slightly differently or with a different inflection or emphasis or pattern of speech, maybe it works just as well or better than what is written.

Classical music is the Shakespeare of music. I just finished playing Bach’s Minuet in C for half an hour. The difficulty with that piece is that every phrase of the work is documented as to exactly how it should be played. You are told how to move the bow and the rhythm exactly. So it is incumbent upon you, the musician, to get it just right.

That level of attention to detail is exhausting and difficult. “Close enough” is not that hard. “Exactly” is much harder. And, for me at least, the coordination to make all the different changes in bow direction is very difficult. Playing the “Star Spangled Banner” is much easier, because if I use a different bowing direction or am just a shade faster or slower than optimal, who cares?

I hear this piece in my sleep now.

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One Comment
  1. Georgann permalink

    Yoyo Ma once said that he played a piece of music perfectly. That was his goal and he achieved it. However, afterward he did not feel satisfied with his playing. He decided that playing with passion was more important than playing technically perfectly correct. I tend to agree with him. After reaching a certain level of skill on a piece, then put your heart in it. You and your listeners will appreciate the emotion they feel by hearing your interpretation of the music. After all, music is art for the ears. I try to reach for this every time I play.

    Love, Mom

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