Feldenkrais Method for pianists II; just this condition...
In all things of the Nature there is something marvelous.
Let us say, we discuss here The Craft of Piano Method basic thoughts and piano-technical solutions. On the Page, quoted at the end of First Part of this article, one could found a truly rational suggestion given by the creator of this Method, Mr. Alan Fraser:
"...do not curl your fingers this spoils the whole thing. Its not curling! The instant you curl your fingers you are no longer doing the whole-finger lever. You lose the ease and clarity of contact with the key. The relatively flat finger is fundamentally a much simpler entity than the curled one. Leave them relatively flat, keep it simple!"
This and some other pearls that positively differentiate Piano Craft from some analogous systems, are still merely getting lost in clump of rhetorically shining sentences, which practical value presents rather disputable character. For a sample: who would like to believe that the reflexes can act much more precisely than our thinking mind [the full quotation could be found at the end of this page; Thank you!]? Of course, only they, of which the thinking mind works slower than their muscles, are ready to believe that the reflexes can act much more precisely than our thinking mind; firstly acting, and just after judging what exactly and how has happened, or even NOT JUDGING at all, is rather immature way of doing the job. Only in very special cases this Mr. Fraser's opinion could be seen as the right one: for instance, in the cases of W. A. Mozart or J. S. Bach, or in a case of the improvising Chopin, maybe. They, whose MUSICAL INTUITION represents so high quality as it had happened not many times in the entire history of music, they really do not must deliberate about HOW to do this or that; thinking and doing are very-very close, one to each other, in their mind & body. Still even a little bit smaller talents must persistently look for solutions that could firstly improve their MENTAL skills, including the AURAL skills of course, which if start to work actually well, they as the side result could improve the MANUAL skills as well, too. That is so, because it is beyond doubts that the way to the real improvement of any motion done by human's body must go through his/hers active mental and emotional preparation. Just later, when such kind of formation becomes completed, the musically formed basis could start to form the new and better technical habits on these levels of unconsciousness, which rule the physical part of moving of the human's body. Before it may happen, our mind must truly decide any unique motion in order to eliminate the accidental, pointless motions, which habitually are being done by many pianists without any connection to the general line of interpretation of an actually studied musical opus, undertaken by them.
Understanding music? Reading, hearing, singing, thinking...
Besides, the connotation of the word reflex [an uncontrollable physical reaction to something] origins the following interpretation: the muscles are able to properly REACT only on the musically adequate impulses coming from the pianist's brains. Getting artistically false impulse the muscles will falsely react, which automatically will cause the artistically defective sounding result. If I may ask now, what the original Feldenkrais Method would like to say about such interpretation of the matter?
You, Feldenkreisers, are used to say Awareness Through Movement. Well! But, who knows, just the opposite phrase, Proper Movement Through Adequate Musical Understanding, would work evidently better? Welcome!
Let you have a look at the real Wisdom and Beauty, which are hidden under the surface of these photos, please!
Thinking about my dissatisfaction related to The Piano Craft Method's approach to piano technical problems, I would like to declare I profoundly believe that applause falls asleep, when the criticism [especially sharp] wakes definitely up. My Wife, Lidia, is even of the opinion that "mainly, we owe our development to our enemies". Of course, I am definitely NO ONES enemy! The situation looks just the other way round! I feel very sad, seeing how so creative person as Mr. Fraser doubtlessly is, directs his development into completely strange side: he evidently believes in MUSICAL omnipotence of the SOMATIC features, which factually are shaping only peripheral elements of the matter. The Feldenkrais method had never been invented to become the fundament of any piano-technical formula. Could it still be used by the pianists? Yes, certainly yes, but in my opinion as the physically aiding TOOL only, which may not persistently be present in the pianists' mind as the competent fundamental feature, because it factually disturbs the creative musical thinking, pretending to decide what is good or/and bad in playing the piano. In the last end yet, piano playing must surely be understood as a kind of MUSICAL, but not the PHYSICAL acting. This is truly sorrowful that the Teacher of MUSIC is striving to focus the piano students' attention mainly on the hands' MOTIONS, forgetting the most important role of the artistically oriented, dynamic "anticipative hearing". Unbelievable!
Maybe the Feldenkrais method is the actually miraculous system for all them, who do NOT suffer from lack of artistic creativity? I mean, who do not see any necessity of such activity in teaching and playing the piano? Besides, I wonder, whether anybody could just for fun depict Glenn Gould's training of the Theme of Goldberg Variations? Would it be possible that he decided the conclusive sound result ACCORDING to position his elbows should be keep in? Or Horowitz, who practices The Poet speaks from the Schumann's Scenes from Childhood... Personally said, I profoundly believe, The Master FIRSTLY is looking for the acceptable sounding result and eventually AFTER that he might like to adjust some physical aspects of the playing IF HE NOTICED that something is going not as good as he formerly expected. After many years of experiments and studies on the piano playing I am coming to such a "revolutionary" conclusion: ONLY lack of musicality and musically oriented thinking causes the piano technical troubles and ONLY via improving this deficiency one could improve ones piano playing technique; here does not exist any other way round.
If somebody would like to think about possibilities to adapt the Feldenkrais Method to his particular piano instrumental needs, he should firstly very clearly decide, WHICH elements of this system can bring the positive results into the PARTICULAR piano instrumental action, and WHEN the elements of this method could practically be used. It should become lager likes the sun that NO ONE muscularly based decision may be allowed to decide any slightest alteration in any musically basic aspect of the playing am I right? Thoroughly reading the Alan Fraser's papers published in the Internet, one could get the impression that without possibly active usage of that method, actually, the piano students have TOTALLY NO POSSIBILITIES to develop their piano technical skills.
I must openly say, perceive such an opinion as the truly grave mistake... Frankly said, I do not see any necessity to propose any extra SOMATIC exercises in situation in which the student's body works nearly perfectly well. If the muscularly oriented tutors would not persistently focus their students' attention on muscular aspects of the piano playing, it would very shortly come to light, we have dramatically more few cases of any tendonitis-like and similar illnesses among the pianists worldwide. Let you have a look at this video please! In my opinion, if something should be improved herein, this is the quality of UNDERSTANDING of the artistic IMAGE that must actively work as a background of the playing piece, indeed. Of course, the students' ACTIVITY of and in CREATING the emotionally and intellectually fascinating musical FORMS must become the main, chief and first aspect the piano teachers' attention should be focused on!
I am very sorry I do NOT see here any necessity for the biomechanical interference if the sounds just flow...
Habitually yet, many piano teachers would like to start working with even very talented students focusing their attention on ALWAYS [in the TEACHERS' eternal opinion] DEFECTIVE way they are used to use their fingers and hands. In the same moment they, completely unconsciously are starting to ruin the students' physically good feelings and are putting the technical UNCERTAINTY into the students' technique. This DEFINITELY MUST HAPPEN because focusing the students' attention on hands, the teachers are taking away the most natural OBJECTS that must persistently and actively be watched in playing the piano. These OBJECTS are as follows: the artistic IDEAS & IMAGES, plus consequently the quality of producing sounds; as well the very important is a class of the physical pleasure inside of the entire acting pianist's hands and the body, in general.
I must say, I experienced very many samples of such pedagogically devastating actions, watching piano lessons, given by tens and tens of piano teachers from several countries; I am very sorry, but I have to say even in the Moscow Conservatory of Music. Who knows, maybe, the MANUALLY oriented approach to playing and teaching the piano is the causing reason that so many child prodigies so often lose the artistic swing and the momentum, and in the last end are being led around into serious troubles from the road of the artistic progress? In my opinion, they, who are instrumentally able to do nearly all that that the pianists should do, they very often dramatically need in the intellectual, emotional and/or even spiritual guidance. Maybe, the very secret of such Great Piano Masters as were Chopin, MATURED Liszt, Leszetycki and Neuhaus, was the Art they were able to recognize the Mental and Emotional needs of their greatly talented students? And the way, they were able to offer them the factually necessary kind of support?
According to conclusions taken after my nearly 40 years long pedagogic experience, I must say that it is truly much better to believe in existence of even smallest specks of Musical Gift in our, SOMETIMES, even almost musically helpless students, and try to focus their attention on the musically most basic things than to actually be convinced over their unmusicality and try to make correct some functions of the bodily elements of their playing! Very interesting sample ◄ could be found under this link; be patient yet, please!
If the piano technique can be interpreted as a structure of the WELL-MANAGED MOTIONS, which one may explore in isolation from all the aural, emotional and intellectual relations and dependences, the Feldenkrais-Method, maybe, could offer quite much help to all the piano users suffering from their deficient understanding of WHAT THEY factually should PHYSICALLY do. Still because we CANNOT isolate the things from their natural environment wanting to finally understand HOW THEY really work, desiring to know how it could be possible to efficiently operate such multifaceted structure as is the IMAGE-CREATING, KEYBOARD-USING and the MUSICAL FORMS-BUILDING IN SOUNDS, we may not be interested in such as thin part of the entire issue, as are the purely physically considered motions only. Once all the piano technical troubles are coming from the DEFICIENTLY WORKING musicality, which roughly said is very often totally unable to produce the musically adequate IMPULSES that should be generated in a proper time in our brains and become fully READABLE to the particular neuromuscular applications serving manual elements of the pianist's playing apparatus, consequently, all the IMPROVING PROCESS cannot mainly be concentrated on the mechanical aspects of the entire matter [biomechanical is the euphemism only, nothing more] because the quality of its acting is fully dependent on quality of the brains' work, if I may so unkindly say.
We should think rationally about HIGHER ASPECTS of our ART: in any case, even Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), being rather clever fellow, was unable to adequately clarify the basic questions of any weighty mathematical theory, and this had happened on the exactly similar basis, another clever fellow, Mr. Isaac Newton (1642-1727), was unable to paint even a "Portrait of the Pig", not mentioning about "Mona Lisa".
Every Art has the secrets of its own... The musicians must know HOW to listen to the sounds but PROFESSIONALLY, not in the way, any concert-listener is able to listen, too!
The next very clever gentleman in our story doubtlessly is Dr. Feldenkrais! His biography is rich enough with occurrences to generate several Bond-kind movies and at least some of the Indiana Jones-style, too. I must say very frankly, I profoundly appreciate and love such kind of the human's determination and braveness HIS BEING has brought onto the Earth. I still almost cry over the peculiar limitation of his talent, or better said over particular kind of intellectual blindness presented by some of His devotees.
Why, why writing as truthfully: "Movement is the basis of awareness" Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais would NOT like to add that THIS judgment is FACTUALLY RELATED to the mental mobility as well? Let us put our mind into motion! That's all.
Being NOT the real PSYCHOLOGIST [I am NOT, too, as well; S.K.], but rather factually being a PSYCHOANALYST-AMATEUR [I am too, certainly; S.K.], Dr. Feldenkrais had written such fully acceptable judgment, as:
- All behavior is a complex of mobilized muscles, sensing, feeling and thought.
But unfortunately, at the same occasion he had articulated several judgments of the sub-standard character, which stays in contradiction not only with actual science, but as well with the everyday practice:
- A fundamental change in the motor basis within any single integration pattern will break up the cohesion of the whole and thereby leave thought and feeling without anchorage in the patterns of their established routines. In this condition, it is much easier to effect changes in thinking and feeling, for the muscular part through which thinking and feeling reach our awareness has changed and no longer expresses the patterns preciously familiar to us.
- Habit has lost its chief support, that of the muscles, and has become more amenable to change.
The CHIEF SUPPORT of any habit surely is NOT related to the muscles, but to the neuromuscular memory. Hence, all what we PHYSICALLY DO, happens on the very similar basis all the visual incidents could happen on the computer's screen. Nothing, factually, can come about on the screen IF the adequate bits of information, formerly SAVED on the hard disc or in other sort of the computer's, so called, memory [in our particular sample we could only speak about unfathomable depths of the molecular switch that triggers long-term memory storage by mobilizing the protein synthesis machinery], might became DISABLED. In the very short words: before the muscles become physically active, the human's neurological system must PRODUCE some COMPREHENSIBLE [to the muscles] impulses. In any case, however the BASIC INSTINCTS finally determine HOW we actually behave in the extreme circumstances, still WHAT is bad or good to us cannot be understood in the purely instinctive categories. If such catastrophe would happen, it would mean the End of the Humanity, in any case to me.
These are just PICTURES OF SOMETHING let you put your fantasy into action...
As the most expressive sample in this matter is to me I beg your pardon, please! a sample of the paralyzed human's body. Discussing the Dr. Feldenkrais views, we should take into consideration the fact, the MUSCLES do physically EXIST even if the human's body is totally disabled, just physically; its musculature is just unable to act because "something wrong has happened with the system, the messages are [NOT] passing through between the brain and the muscles".
Friedrich Schiller poetically said, "Hence the Spirit builds the body for itself"...
The DIFFERRENCE between acceptation given to such kind of thinking, The Piano Craft Method's clarifications [DVD, Web Site] are representing, AND to such point of view that represents the "nontricky" tradition in teaching and playing the piano, apparently relies on differences between the actual needs and expectations of the piano students. They, whom the HANDS mean the most PAINFUL ELEMENT of the playing machinery, and whose consciousness of the entire pursuit is rather clear only to some extent, they surely are ready to accept any shadow of hope, a slightest sign of the green light in the long tunnel of weakness. All of them instead, whom the HANDS mean the very suitable INSTRUMENTS, always ready to correctly transpose the particular artistic Image created in the Fantasy into the real sounding result, they certainly would like to see all these PHYSICALLY oriented concepts in the piano technique as the truly strange concepts, indeed...
Mr. Fraser wrote: "I understand what you are saying..."
- I'm profoundly afraid, Mr. Fraser actually understood what I have written down, but definitely not, what my writing factually means about...
Mr. Fraser asked: "If my approach is so old-fashioned (Malwine Bree and many others have indeed espoused the arch long before I did), then why do so many suffer from not using it properly?"
- The response is very simple and Josef Hofmann expressed it in the truly brilliant way answering on question asked by the older lady, who was seriously surprised HOW, having so small hands, he had been able to play the piano so greatly? Hofmann answered in that way, Madam, what makes you think that I play with my hands?
They, who think that all the piano technical difficulties are caused by the unsuitably working hands and THEREFORE they [the difficulties, of course...] could be removed via improvement of the hands' functioning, must and will suffer FROM their hands' improper acting as long as they become to be ready to change they outdated (since about 1849, a year when Chopin died...) way of thinking about technique of playing the piano. Here is no other way round.
The MUSICALLY highly talented pianists could only exceptionally experience some kind of physical discomfort in playing the piano, of course! This will, yet, NOT BASICALLY occur because their hands would working in such the way, they very often are used to think about, not at all! This would primarily happened because their MUSICAL THINKING works truly good completely independently of this, what they factually IMAGINE about the entire physical side of technique of playing the piano in general...
The highly talented musicians very clearly know WHAT THEY MUSICALLY WANT to do, and they just simply are able to appropriately listening to their playing [beyond doubts it must include the ANTICIPATIVE HEARING, firstly]. This would always cause the musically if not interesting, noble and beautiful, still in any case the ACCEPTABLE sounding results of all theirs PHYSICAL actions on the piano. One could experience it personally watching Mr. Fraser's demo published on the www.youtube.com. What is truly PARADOXICAL herein, Mr. Fraser's musicality apparently is much more firm and stable than any INTELLECTUAL structure He had created in order to interpret his own muscular activity. I mean in general, our FACTUAL artistic creativity enormously helps our muscles to act efficiently IN SPITE of HOW we understand this all, what we actually can do on and at the instrument. Not only at the piano, of course; this explanation clarifies as well the very common and as well very sorrowful phenomenon: big singers very rare are able to teach well; usually it is happening exactly the other way round. Let us be completely silent for a while now [young Liszt, young Liszt]!
Coming back to the former question, Mr. Fraser asked, "why do so many suffer from not using it [the arch-concept] properly?"
- In my opinion, firstly this is not true statement that so many suffer from not using... etc, etc. All the piano technical troubles have theirs roots in simple disproportion between FACTUAL musical abilities of the particular pianist and his IRRATIONAL ambitions. Persons, predestinated to become the piano users, who if VERY WELL taught could averagely well perform the pieces of difficulty level NOT HIGHER than op. 636 of Czerny, starting to practice the Studies from op. 10 or 25 of Chopin and additionally BEING forced to complete all the MUSICAL tasks focusing their humble musical THINKING mainly on the biomechanical aspects of playing the piano, truly cannot experience anything more than just wide-ranging discomfort. Yes, in spite they have good or bad understood the famous arch-idea, they all ARE likely "condemned" to become eternally unhappy with the piano; this file gives additional light on this question. Welcome!
This file is as well ready to give some additional light on the discussed
matter. Look, please, what these guys are promising: Improve Piano Playing and Piano
Speed, Piano velocity, piano eye hand coordination, reduce piano performance
anxiety through Sonny's Breathing, Relaxation, stretching and flow techniques
& Improve Piano Playing and Piano
Speed, Piano velocity, piano eye hand
Part Three this way, please: