Looking at practicing

What do we classical musicians spend most of our time doing? That’s right: practicing. Nowadays this is mostly a completely closed and private process, where we are completely  alone and prefer other people not to listen. As teachers, we don’t really know how our students practice, let alone our colleagues. Why has this become so? It wasn’t always like this. To take a famous example, Mozart practiced most of his childhood in front of people, and actually preferred it that way, also as an adult. And he ended up…quite successful, I think we would all agree. I feel certain that becoming more aware of what is happening in the actual… Read More

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New ways in online music learning

(You can also find this at https://youtu.be/l8VnARkUFdA) Currently – because of COVID-19 – there is a lot of focus on how to do online music teaching. The vast majority is focusing on moving the normal learning situation into a digital environment. That is the synchronous learning situation, where the teacher and student are present at the same time. However, there is an entirely different group of opportunities in online music education, which we call asynchronous methods. Learning situations, where teacher and student are not simultaneously together. And this is, what this post will be about. It is not a technical review of the various solutions, but an overall description of… Read More

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On the essence of classical music

Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to explain to outsiders, what a performance of classical music actually entails. Questions, that we often meet: Why do you play the same songs again and again? Why don’t you write your own music? Why can’t I just listen to a recording of the same piece, instead of going to a live performance? And the deeper question: In what way are classical musicians actually artists, aren’t you just reproducing the works of other people? Because few people today have the experience of spending years and years trying to master the great classical masterworks, we classical musicians should probably be better at explaning this. So… Read More

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About Artistic Research

Previously, research in the field of performing arts has mainly been carried out by researchers from other disciplines who have looked at art as an object of their methodology. This has led to a large number of results in musicology, humanities, social studies, psychology and many other areas, but in the last decades, a field has emerged that explores art as a phenomenon seen from the “inside” – from the artists themselves. This is usually called Artistic Research, and since 2012 the Danish Ministry of Culture has encouraged the national higher cultural education institutions to pursue activities within this field. After a preparatory work, and strongly inspired by the other… Read More

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About FormingPerforming

With the FormingPerforming project I’ve explored the complex processes involved in learning a new piece of music, and I have used my own practice as a research object for the project. I was lucky to get access to a work of high quality, which had not been recorded before: the Danish composer Paul von Klenau’s Piano Concerto from 1943. Probably as the only living Danish pianist I have previously performed piano music by Klenau, primarily his f – minor Sonata. The concerto is from the same period as this sonata, which gave me a good starting point for my work. (See About Paul von Klenau) So: On the one hand,… Read More

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About knowledge sharing

We as classical musicians often have the concert or performance as our primary focus and are generally highly focused on results. We are being judged by the performance of the same musical works and within the same genres as thousands of our colleagues and the competition is tough. We perform an activity where the mastery of extremely complex motor skills must be coupled with a very small frame for errors (the musical notation gives us very few degrees of freedom) – in other words, it is really hard just to play the notes only. And to convey those correctly is just the means to an end, which is: Ultimately to… Read More

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About practice

In order to achieve a very high degree of detail control within the highly restrictive framework that the written musical piece represents, we have to work very thoroughly with the piece, so that it motorically and perceptually becomes embedded in us. Many sub-elements need to be automated and a lot of the musical content has to be repeated many times before we get a sufficient degree of security, speed, sound and musical expression, in short, a sufficient degree of control and mastery of the piece. Repetition of elements is thus a primary focal point in our practice process. A “prototype” practice process with the lowest level of awareness would therefore… Read More

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About recording yourself

As a central part of the project, I continuously recorded shorter practice sessions during my work with Paul von Klenau’s piano concerto. I made sure that I also recorded the very early stages of the process, such as this clip, which is the first time, that I practise a section in the second movement. I then reviewed the videos and wrote down my reflections. A number of the videos were subsequently released on YouTube with my comments superimposed. I had two hopes by doing this 1: I would try to get a better understanding of what actually happened during my practice sessions and 2: With the reflections that came along,… Read More

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About being several places at the same time

A central schism, which appeared very early in my work with the project, was the difference in the experience of paying attention to my intentions and my movements as opposed to paying attention to how the music sounds. It is a very basic feature of all bodily actions that they can be divided into the motor performance of the action, which in a sense is “within ourselves” and the outcome of the action, which is “outside in the world”. And a basic experience is that it is more effective to focus on the goal of the action rather than focusing on the means to the goal. An obvious example is… Read More

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About the control paradox

In my project, I gradually became better to open myself up to the strategy changes that often occur beyond my immediate consciousness. These shifts are not perceived as a conscious management of details, but as the underlying nudging of a natural process. Here the focus is on being in the “listening” body as well: the more I am able to experience the music from the outside, the better I am able to fully assess – on the conscious or unconscious level – the quality and my ability to communicate the musical content in a continuous way. I became better to produce attention shifts that helped me to achieve a result… Read More

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