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 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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About strategy changes

As mentioned in the About practice section, repetition is a central aspect of most musicians’ practice. Immediately after reviewing my exercise videos, questions emerged that I had not expected: When and why do I interrupt myself in order to repeat a passage? What do I choose to focus on when I repeat? For this reason, it was apparently interesting to look at the places where my practice processes broke off and took a different direction. It turned out to be a very central element in my reflection, which I chose to call “strategy change” in the videos. If we begin with the first question, the reasons for my strategy changes… Read More

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About muscular tension and movements

I was already aware that the focus on muscular relaxation is very important to my practice. My experience is that greater relaxation results in greater control. This is also confirmed by results from sports research[1]. Therefore, I knew that I was aware of not building up tension during my work on a difficult passage, for instance by pushing the tempo too early. For myself and my students, I am also focused on having “free” movements, that is, continuous rather than jerky movements. My experience is that they are more relaxed and use less energy. But when I watched the videos, I was surprised to see that when I focused on… Read More

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About interpretation

Many non-musicians, and even some music students, have the idea that the learning of a musical piece happens something like this: First, we decode the notes in an exact way (there is only one option) Then we encode this in our motor skills. Our body is considered an empty shell which we fill up with the exact understanding of the notation of the musical piece. Finally, we can choose an interpretation freely and without constraints, which will be both our conscious and personal choice of exactly how to play this piece. However, as my videos show, many of these choices occur throughout the course of the practice process, already from… Read More

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About memorizing and playing concerts

Because of my good ability to sight-read music, I have often begun too late to memorize the music in a deliberate way. Instead, I have continuously automated it, so that after a while I will start playing from memory, but without being aware of it. I have then actually already come far in a wholeness-understanding of the piece. But the moment when I then become consciously aware of my automated movements, I suddenly can’t remember the music. In connection with the intensification of my process with the camera, it became clear that a more effective strategy for me was to memorize smaller sections, already the first time I work with… Read More

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