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Gestures, Salzedo style

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  • #86494

    Rosemary thank you for your insightful remarks about gestures in the Salzedo method and Yolanda’s beautiful book. I would also like to thank everyone for their supportive e-mails and phone calls. Gestures make a difference in your playing. Gestures are part of performance practice in other instruments besides the harp. Have you ever seen Andre Watts, Daniel Barrenboim , or Arthur Rubenstein perform? Gesture is artistic expression regardless of instrument or method. Have you ever seen Pierre Boulez conduct? The man is pure musical expression and the musicians love him because he reveals the sound he wishes to hear from the musicians by his gestures in conducting. Beautiful and artistic gestures from the podium reveal the art in the music that the conductor wants you to create. Orchestral musicians know this instinctively and appreciate the artistry in the technique. Chamber musicians count on it as a form of unspoken communication in performing, it facillitates a higher level of musical expression and artistry in the performance.
    Carl I completely disagree with your remarks about tension release in raising. I have great respect for physical therapists and know quite a few who specialize in musician’s injuries. Although this physical therapist you mentioned is correct in saying complete relaxation is only possible when the arms are at rest at your side, I don’t see how one can play the harp with their arms dangling at their sides. It takes strength to play difficult music well and tension can creep in if you don’t take care to release it. Your prejudice against Salzedo technique blinds you from any serious discussion about a subject you clearly don’t understand.

    #86495
    tony-morosco
    Member

    +++Advanced Salzedo players have figured this out. They don’t raise.+++

    The harpist I have seen perform more than any other is Douglas Rioth, principle harpist for the San Francisco Symphony.

    He raises.

    In fact the first time I saw him with the symphony many years ago I immediately noted he was a Salzedo player by his raise.

    #86496
    unknown-user
    Participant

    I agree with you Tony. Actually, I think that Douglas Rioth used to go to Camden? I’m pretty sure it was him.

    #86497
    rosalind-beck
    Participant

    Rosemary, Saul, Laura, Elizabeth, Ted, Tony and

    #86498
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    Laura- I don’t know of any technique on any instrument where gestures are taught. Yes, every one developes movements that help them to get into the music in their own personal way. Pianists will use a grand gesture at the begining or end of a phrase. Other musicians will move their bodies in a personal expression of some aspect of the music. But that is very different from teaching a student gestures that are extranious to the actual playing of the notes.

    Two years ago I was the guest artist at a mini-conference in Florida. I gave a solo recital and the next day a masterclass. One student who played for me played a piece where the left hand had a pattern of octave, chord, octave, chord, with a two octave skip from the low octave to the chord in the 4th octave, and he was having problems getting to the chord on time because after the octave he would raise his left hand way up and then come down for the chord. I said to him(in front of 35 people)that I didn’t want to get involved in discussions about technique, but that the shortest distance between the low octave and the chord was a straight line, and that by doing this huge arch he was loosing a lot of time and missing the notes. I have seen other harp students for whom this whole raising thing is so ingrained that when they tried to play something fast they looked like they were chopping carrots.

    Any method should be able to stand up to close scrutiny. I’m sorry you took offense at my comments. I did not make them to offend anyone. I was simply pointing out the seeming contradictions. I also wanted to provide an opposing point of view to anyone reading this who is new to the harp.

    I frankly find that, at the advanced level, there is very little difference between Salzedo method and classic French method. I told two very well known Salzedo harpists exactly that and they hissed like snakes that it wasn’t true.

    I knew they would. The obvious question then is: What is it about classic French method that Salzedo harpists despise?

    #86499
    unknown-user
    Participant

    I’ve just been listening to the Debussy Danses again – Yolanda Kondonassis, Scintillation CD – and you know, its the best darn Debussy Danses I’ve ever heard in my life! Those chords at the opening, absolutely fantastic

    #86500
    tony-morosco
    Member

    +++I’ve just been listening to the Debussy Danses again – Yolanda Kondonassis, Scintillation CD – and you know, its the best darn Debussy Danses I’ve ever heard in my life!+++

    I agree. I love that recording, and I can be picky because Debussy is my favorite composer.

    In fact earlier this year I went to see Douglas Rioth play the Danses with the SF symphony and so I was listening to Yolanda’s recording beforehand a lot. Then I thought, what if listening to Yolanda’s version sets my expectations too high and I end up being disappointed by Douglas’ performance?

    Luckily, however, Douglas Rioth is a superior musician in every sense and his performance was absolutely exquisite. My only complaint is that the SF symphony doesn’t perform enough harp repertoire to give him enough opportunities to shine like that.

    #86501
    Evangeline Williams
    Participant

    Well, maybe he figured since there would be no sound, he didn’t need to do all those things to bring out the sound.

    #86502
    diane-michaels
    Spectator

    Have you ever watched the bass section of an orchestra play a Strauss Waltz? Now that’s a gesture!

    #86503
    Evangeline Williams
    Participant

    I never despised the French method, and was not taught to do so.

    #86504
    unknown-user
    Participant

    I actually used to have this terrific article by Salzedo from 1952 etude magazine, that a friend found in a library and sent to me. I think it has got lost in my many moves around the country which is a shame. In it he discusses the aesthetics of playing and the use of gestures. And what comes across is that he was not particularly pedantic about it.

    #86505
    unknown-user
    Participant

    Tony,

    Have you ever come across the Art of Modulating by Salzedo? What do you think of it? My husband was a jazz trumpet player and he really thinks it terrific, keeps pestering me to do all the exercises in it. He thinks it will help me learn to improvise, which I’m a bit hesitant about trying…..And I think I recall some of your postings on jazz playing? (forgive me if I’m mistaken). Anyway, I’d love to hear your comments if you know it.

    I’m going to give it a shot – when I get a harp. Between instruments at the moment which is why I have too much time to write on the column! (Sorry for those that are sick of me already!) I had borrowed a

    #86506
    tony-morosco
    Member

    I don’t have a copy, but I have seen it and looked through it and I from what I remember it looked like a very good book. In fact I think I have it on my “must get some time soon” list.

    I started to play Jazz on guitar, and so most of my materials for Jazz are for that instrument and I just kind of carry things over to the harp as best I can. I really would like to get some good materials for Jazz harp. I do have a few things by Deborah Henson-Conanat.

    I think for someone who has never dealt with modulation and plays the harp it is a great resource and I would say go for it. It can help in improvisation. It will not necessarily teach you how to improvise, but it opens up a lot of possibilities when you do. One of the reasons why Jazz for harp is a bit limited when it comes to lever harp is just that, the difficulty of modulating on a lever harp. It cuts off a lot of avenues in Jazz.

    I would combine the Salzedo book with something like Deborah Henson-Conant’s book Introduction to Improvisation, which basically shows you how to use your scales to build am

    #86507
    unknown-user
    Participant

    Thanks for that Tony, that’s excellent advice. We do have the Levine book, and my husband keeps waving it at me and telling me to have a go at it….I have done a fair bit of classical theory, but have not found it as useful as one may think! And so many years of classical playing has made me probably a bit too fond of the written note (like a security blanket!). I used to play sessions and shows with jazz players and always felt my lack of jazz theory a bit of a disadvantage – but was too busy with either my studies or

    #86508
    tony-morosco
    Member

    Definitely get The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Solos and Improvisation no matter what else you do.

    I think the problem a lot of people have with theory is that they learn the theory but then end up playing other people’s arrangements so they never learn what to do with it once they have it.

    The book mentioned above basically shows you how to take the basic theory and what to actually do with it in order to make your own solos. And all of that can also be used to make your own arrangements if you don’t already do that as well.

    The Levine book is also one of the standard books for Jazz players. Virtually everyone I know who plays Jazz has a copy. That and the Real Books basically combine to make the bible for students at Berkeley.

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