On Parsing and Pausing

We skipped two lessons over the holidays, so I had plenty of time to practice and make progress on my concerto movement.  I think Teacher noticed the progress when we had our first lesson of the new year on Tuesday.  During the lesson, we mainly focused on phrasing.  She reminded me that with classical violin, we are always trying to imitate the feeling and sound of the human voice.  Following this metaphor, it’s important to pay attention to the spots in the music where a singer might need to breathe as one way to recognize the transitions between musical phrases.  While we’ve discussed phrasing in previous lessons, I’m just now beginning to appreciate what I might gain by better treating the subject.

At present, my ability to recognize these phrasal boundaries is somewhat limited – due to my technical proficiency I’m still too focused on playing the notes.  But it has occurred to me to consider the analog to phrasal boundaries in linguistics – there, the rules of syntax help us analyze where boundaries are.  Parsing phrases in language and in music is different, but there are some similarities as well – though there might not be discrete syntactic structures that, when full, indicate a transition, the structure of the music can certainly help us recognize them.  In linguistics we might notice that our verb phrase is complete when all the objects of the verb have been filled in: give me the ball.  In music, the phrase might be a rhythmic pattern that starts over.  Overall, I’m just now beginning to see how my playing can benefit from paying the subject more mind.

Teacher also pointed out my tendency to hang up on a mistake and play the problem section or note over again multiple times during my play-throughs for her.  She suggested I try to just play over my mistakes, versus going back to get it right in that moment.  It makes sense – since I’m not performing much ever, these lesson play-throughs are the only time I put myself on the spot like that, if I treat them as performance moments I can up my game.

Thanks for reading.

Ryan

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