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Thread: I could explain it to you in a minute - On Conducting

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    Default I could explain it to you in a minute - On Conducting

    http://www.ericst-laurent.com/conten...-entrevue.html

    RP: You recently wrote that ‘There is almost nothing to teach or to learn about conducting’, and Klemperer is on record as saying that what one can teach is so minimal that ‘I could explain it to you in a minute’. There must surely be more to it than that?

    PB: Well, I spoke of technique. Certainly the way of conducting is not easy to learn and not easy to teach; it’s not at all like an instrument. For instrumental technique you need many years, because it’s a mechanical process. What you learn on an instrument is not only the music to be performed, but you learn how, mechanically, to achieve what you require from your instrument. In conducting you do not have any kind of specialized gestures; the gestures are very unsophisticated. The proof is that if you don’t play the violin for five or six months, then you must train your muscles to play again; but if you have not conducted even for three years, you can be on the podium and immediately have the same contact with the orchestra as if you had conducted the day before. So it is the material proof that, technically, there is nothing very much to be learnt. The gestures are very simple. It’s like when you begin to drive a car: first rule, know how to stop; and second rule, know how to begin! And, if you know these two rules well, in between you can manage – more or less!

    ...I gave two classes of conducting in my life (although I don’t believe in teaching, as you know, and especially in teaching conducting!), but I had two classes which were very hard.


    I read the entire interview and the more he explains, the more mysterious it seems! There is nothing to teach about conducting, and yet if you read the comments below you'd have to believe that conducting is the hardest thing of them all.

    http://kennethwoods.net/blog1/2009/1...ly-getting-it/

    Now, though, I’m struck by the awe inspiring fact that I learn a lot more from coming back to a piece like the Mozart for the 20th time than from learning a new piece for the first time. I just did this piece a few months ago, and spent many hours with the score marking parts even more recently, and yet I continue to find more things to marvel at each time I open the score than I did the time before.

    Nothing against my successful young colleagues, but I really think that this is why Paavo Jarvi is right when he says there is no such thing as a “great” young conductor, no matter how talented they are. The learning curve with great music should be, can be and often is exponential. People sometimes look at older performers, be they Schnabel or Haitink and see that their repertoire gradually contracts. This is usually attributed to people focusing on what they love most, or are most comfortable with or with a reluctance to learn new things.

    What I’m starting to understand now, just a bit, is that this process of pairing back and focusing on a select repertoire seems to come from a desire, a hunger to learn new things.


    There are great young violinists, great young pianists, but no great young conductors.

    http://kennethwoods.net/blog1/2006/1...understanding/

    Just before he died, Solti remarked that he was finally starting to understand the Marriage of Figaro, even though he had conducted the piece hundreds of times throughout his career...And finally, you have to remember that even Gunter Wand in his 90s had to live with the fact that one day he might learn something about Bruckner that would mean he had to start all over with a whole new approach. The question that destroys everything you know is also the question that gives you new life as an artist. No interpreter can ever know that their view of the piece is “right” or that they really do understand the essence of the music. They can only take comfort in the rigor of the process of questioning and study that got them to where they are today, knowing full well that they will eveuntually know better the truth of the music than they do now. A real artist has to know that the insight that destroys certainty is a gift, because understanding is a greater thing than certainty.

    What gives? Can somebody explain it in a minute?

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    RP: You recently wrote that ‘There is almost nothing to teach or to learn about conducting’, and Klemperer is on record as saying that what one can teach is so minimal that ‘I could explain it to you in a minute’. There must surely be more to it than that?

    PB: Well, I spoke of technique.
    So, PB points out that his comment was solely about the technique (what I recently called 'waving your arms about' and he confirms that when he says,

    In conducting you do not have any kind of specialized gestures; the gestures are very unsophisticated. The proof is that if you don’t play the violin for five or six months, then you must train your muscles to play again; but if you have not conducted even for three years, you can be on the podium and immediately have the same contact with the orchestra as if you had conducted the day before. So it is the material proof that, technically, there is nothing very much to be learnt. The gestures are very simple. It’s like when you begin to drive a car: first rule, know how to stop; and second rule, know how to begin! And, if you know these two rules well, in between you can manage – more or less!
    What he then talks about taking a long time is the listening, the reading, the preparing - the understanding.
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    It's difficult not really because of any 'technique'. The gestures are fairly easy once you've understood how they work and don't require practise comparable to a violin. The difficulty is in communication and leading the orchestra, bringing across your vision and inspiring the ensemble. Rehearsing efficiently etc... These are things that are difficult to teach, but they come with experience and confidence and perhaps a little intuition is needed. Lastly, the conductor has to be an intellectual and know everything about the music.
    "Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody." - Rousseau

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    I find statements such as "you need 50 years to understand x piece" rather boring and over the top. The composer certainly didn't need 50 years to write it.
    I have much more admiration for the Richter way : play what's on the sheet. Period. No pseudo-philosophical thingy the composer certainly wouldn't have thought of.
    Renaissance likes this.

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    I think the point has been made that conducting is more involved behind the curtain. Do people expect to see a conductor juggle flaming batons or what? I do find it a bit much that they lip sync to vocal works though.
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    If I liked the performance, the conductor must have been good. If I liked the performance very much, the conductor must have been great, to me at least.

    Best regards, Dr
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianwalker View Post
    http://www.ericst-laurent.com/conten...-entrevue.html

    RP: You recently wrote that ‘There is almost nothing to teach or to learn about conducting’, and Klemperer is on record as saying that what one can teach is so minimal that ‘I could explain it to you in a minute’. There must surely be more to it than that?

    PB: Well, I spoke of technique. Certainly the way of conducting is not easy to learn and not easy to teach; it’s not at all like an instrument. For instrumental technique you need many years, because it’s a mechanical process. What you learn on an instrument is not only the music to be performed, but you learn how, mechanically, to achieve what you require from your instrument. In conducting you do not have any kind of specialized gestures; the gestures are very unsophisticated. The proof is that if you don’t play the violin for five or six months, then you must train your muscles to play again; but if you have not conducted even for three years, you can be on the podium and immediately have the same contact with the orchestra as if you had conducted the day before. So it is the material proof that, technically, there is nothing very much to be learnt. The gestures are very simple. It’s like when you begin to drive a car: first rule, know how to stop; and second rule, know how to begin! And, if you know these two rules well, in between you can manage – more or less!

    ...I gave two classes of conducting in my life (although I don’t believe in teaching, as you know, and especially in teaching conducting!), but I had two classes which were very hard.


    I read the entire interview and the more he explains, the more mysterious it seems! There is nothing to teach about conducting, and yet if you read the comments below you'd have to believe that conducting is the hardest thing of them all.

    http://kennethwoods.net/blog1/2009/1...ly-getting-it/

    Now, though, I’m struck by the awe inspiring fact that I learn a lot more from coming back to a piece like the Mozart for the 20th time than from learning a new piece for the first time. I just did this piece a few months ago, and spent many hours with the score marking parts even more recently, and yet I continue to find more things to marvel at each time I open the score than I did the time before.

    Nothing against my successful young colleagues, but I really think that this is why Paavo Jarvi is right when he says there is no such thing as a “great” young conductor, no matter how talented they are. The learning curve with great music should be, can be and often is exponential. People sometimes look at older performers, be they Schnabel or Haitink and see that their repertoire gradually contracts. This is usually attributed to people focusing on what they love most, or are most comfortable with or with a reluctance to learn new things.

    What I’m starting to understand now, just a bit, is that this process of pairing back and focusing on a select repertoire seems to come from a desire, a hunger to learn new things.


    There are great young violinists, great young pianists, but no great young conductors.

    http://kennethwoods.net/blog1/2006/1...understanding/

    Just before he died, Solti remarked that he was finally starting to understand the Marriage of Figaro, even though he had conducted the piece hundreds of times throughout his career...And finally, you have to remember that even Gunter Wand in his 90s had to live with the fact that one day he might learn something about Bruckner that would mean he had to start all over with a whole new approach. The question that destroys everything you know is also the question that gives you new life as an artist. No interpreter can ever know that their view of the piece is “right” or that they really do understand the essence of the music. They can only take comfort in the rigor of the process of questioning and study that got them to where they are today, knowing full well that they will eveuntually know better the truth of the music than they do now. A real artist has to know that the insight that destroys certainty is a gift, because understanding is a greater thing than certainty.

    What gives? Can somebody explain it in a minute?
    Glenn Gould said he could teach anyone 'everything they needed to know to play the piano' in about half an hour. He is in a way correct: where that half hour gets shot down as unrealistic of course is in the time it takes to be 'learned' and practice time to be able to apply / supply all that is needed to 'get it all right.' Of which, if he would have been asked and was truthful, takes more like a lifetime than half an hour :-)
    Last edited by PetrB; Nov-04-2012 at 01:39.

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    I think Stravinsky was in the camp that thought 'just play what the composer notated'. There is much to be said for that view and certainly for music before the Romantic era the conductor is less important. But I think the conductor should be seen like film director, the musicians like the actors and the composer like the writer. It is up to the conductor to inspire the orchestra to give their most committed performance of his/her vision of the piece. Many orchestral musicians can be jaded by years of routinely playing the same repertoire and I know many who dislike modern music too so extracting a great and passionate performance requires a strong personality and an amount of knowledge.
    Last edited by Petwhac; Nov-04-2012 at 02:18.

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    Erich Leinsdorf, who was a delightfully irascible know-it-all, wrote a book titled "The Composer's Advocate," that describes his vision of what a conductor should bring to a piece of music. It's a fascinating work, even if one disagrees with parts of it. But the central idea is that the conductor should know more about a piece of music, and should have thought much longer about it, than anyone who's in the ensemble playing it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by brianwalker View Post
    What gives? Can somebody explain it in a minute?
    Okay. The conductor's job is to lead and supervise the orchestra. Naturally, that means indicating tempo to the performers and cuing sections as needed. The best conductor is also present throughout every rehearsal so that he/she knows which passages in a performance the performers need the most guidance in. Once that is known, it is simply a matter of figuring out the best means of communicating with the orchestra as they perform. There are certain gestures which are commonly used (such as for certain time signatures, or open hand = crescendo, etc.), but these are by no means fixed so long as what needs to be communicated is done efficiently. If the orchestra is very good, a simple tapping gesture is enough to keep time, and pointing at a section is enough to cue it to start playing--the rest is just performance by the conductor for the sake of the audience. And that's really all you need to know to conduct.
    Last edited by Kopachris; Nov-04-2012 at 05:07.
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    conductor.jpg
    ......
    superhorn and Kopachris like this.
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    The basic beat patterns of conducting are very simple and easy to learn ; you can learn them in no time .
    But ACTUALLY PUTTING THEM INTO PRACTICE is anything but easy ! You might compare this to the difference between cutting your food when you eat with a knife and fork and being a surgeon and cutting people's bodies open in surgery . This takes years of trainign as a physician and surgeon .
    before you are ready to get in front of an orchestra, you must have a thorough knowledge of harmony, counterpoint, orchestration , form, and musical history etc . You need to be proficient on piano, and perhaps another instrument, violin, or other string instruments etc. Even if you are not a sting player, you need to know about bowings . You have to have a first rate ear in order to correct intonation when necessary and to guage the balances between the different sections etc .
    I've studied the tecnique of conducting in college, and it involves much more than beating time. There are things like making retardandos and accelerandos, making the transition gradually from one tempo to another,
    holding for fermatas and cutting off the beat to indicate when the orchestra should go on, etc.
    There are irregular time signatures such as 5/4, 7/4 etc, and even more beats per measure .
    Conducting Stravinsky's Rite of Spring is a conductor's nightmare !
    You have to learn to make a variety of different gestures such as giving cues to musicians to come in in tricky passages to make sure they come in time, or to remind them after a long period of rests while playing etc.
    Conducting opera is even more tricky. It's like being the ringmaster at a three ring circus ! You have to keep orchestra and singers together, there's a chorius . sometimes a ballet etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by superhorn View Post
    You might compare this to the difference between cutting your food when you eat with a knife and fork and being a surgeon and cutting people's bodies open in surgery .
    Great analogy.

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