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Thread: How and why classical musicians feel rhythm differently

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by janxharris View Post
    I'm still a little confused - if the details of the performance are worked out in rehearsal then there shouldn't be a need to 'lead' by beating ahead of time. The example error I gave regarding Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic isn't the only one - I love the sound they make but such mishaps sound awkward.
    Yes, details should be worked out in rehearsal, but any performance worthy of attention has a certain spontaneity that cannot, must not, be rehearsed! It's those sudden, subtle, even unexpected shifts that make live music invigorating. Charles Munch was famous for this, never conducting the same work the same way twice. Bernstein, too. And most of the greats. But the conductor must still lead the way. There are some bad conductors who cannot maintain a tempo; it gets slower and slower and slower. Why? Because they aren't leading! They're trying to conduct on the beat - the beat being what they hear. Human reaction times being what they are, the tempo starts to drag. It's a common fault of young and beginning conductors. Actually leading, pull the orchestra along and maintaining a tempo is harder than you think, especially if you have a bass drum player who can't keep moving and plays on the back of the beat! It's like conducting in a tub of molasses.

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  3. #32
    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    My experience playing both... It's a different experience playing in an orchestra and playing in a jazz ensemble. Both, of course, require that you have the ability to feel the beat as a visceral experience. BUT, while feeling the beat in the orchestra, you are also obliged to follow the directions of the conductor at the same time, such as dynamic indications, and sometimes that can be slightly inhibiting or restrictive rather than basing your performance solely on the basis of feeling the beat... You are not free simply to feel that beat; there are other considerations because no performance is exactly the same. So, the conductor is supreme and if you don't follow the conductor, you are out.

    In a jazz ensemble, you are looking to each other for unity, listening to each other as equals to play the written parts well or to generate "swing", which is the perfect rhythmic alignment of all the players in that ensemble and one of the most thrilling experiences that can happen in all of music, because it doesn't happen automatically. There are no equals in an orchestra with a conductor, even if the conductor is doing very little on the podium and the orchestra seems to be playing itself, because the conductor might do something to create a variation of the work that was rehearsed, and you have to have the presence of mind to notice those changes and respond to them... Under normal circumstances, it's a completely different experience though both require you to have an innate sense of rhythm that is felt. If the conductor is there, it is not always possible to anticipate what the conductor will do, and that means you are following the conductor, not simply relying totally on your own sense of the beat, and that's why it can look like the beat of the conductor is slightly ahead of the orchestra or the orchestra is playing slightly behind the beat of the conductor.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Yesterday at 09:00.
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  4. #33
    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Yes, it can be a challenge to get some classical musicians to loosen up and stay on top of the beat in the same way that most jazz musicians do, but they sure do a great job here, probably with a great deal of practice because there's no conductor to rely on and the beat has to be be felt:

    Last edited by Larkenfield; Today at 03:36.
    Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things. —Ray Bradbury

  5. #34
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    ^^^You seem to be talking about large vs. small ensembles rather than classical vs. jazz. The smallest "ensemble" would be a solo performer, for whom this whole dichotomy between "feeling" and "responding to" would be irrelevant, regardless of genre.

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