Counting and Sight Reading

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by etoapps, Feb 8, 2014.

  1. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    Arban, Arban, Arban, Arban, Arban......{insert a few years}.......Arban, Arban, Aebersold/Vecchiano, Monk/Stravinski.

    There is a problem if you apply the Gestalt Law of Closure in this simple manner. We are expected to interpret "rwks mssg" as "Rowuk's message" as opposed to "rowlocks missing" for example by some form of immediate contextual recognition (Gestalt Law of Pr├Ągnanz, or 'Good Gestalt'). But what if it actually was "rowlocks missing"? You've just failed your sight-reading test by playing an arpeggio for the wrong chord and screwing up an important harmonic modulation.

    Good music rebels against Good Gestalt. Good Gestalt (always playing what your mind is expecting) makes for very boring, dull music. Good music has to be seasoned liberally with Bad Gestalt to stimulate the audience and stir their passions. And good sight-reading requires that you spot the Bad Gestalt (that sneaky little Ab lurking in the bar ahead signalling a diminished 9th or Neapolitan 6th or whatever) ahead of time so that you can adjust your phrasing and give it due emphasis, rather than either missing it completely or tripping over it and sounding as if your 3rd valve had just siezed.

    There's not a lot of Bad Gestalt in Arban. They are mainly technical exercises rather than music after all. But there's just enough to keep (most of) the exercises from becoming too tedious. And why mustn't it be too tedious? Because it's teaching us the basic language of Good Gestalt. All the standard rhythmic subdivisions of beat and bar; the standard scale runs in all keys and common modes; the arpeggios of all common chords in all inversions and much else; to be repeated thousands and thousands of times until we can take in 2 bars or more of Good Gestalt in an instant and execute it precisely without having to think about the individual notes. We don't even see the individual notes as such, we just absorb them as complete musical words. "Rowuk's message" for example.

    Once we've progressed to the point where the Good Gestalt runs on auto pilot, we can pretty well forget about it and the art of sight reading simplifies tremendously. A phrase becomes a series of landing notes (generally the first beat of the bar) linked by words of Good Gestalt, with a standard phrasing dynamic (more Good Gestalt from Arban) and we are free to scan the line for Bad Gestalt: the omitted third in a scale run, the accidentals, the accents, sudden changes in tempo or dynamic, the "rowlock's missing" that turns Good Gestalt into Good Music.

    We may start by reading what we can and inventing the rest (although this is a lot easier said than done), stumbling over most of the exceptions to the expected. But isn't our objective to be able to sight-read just by concentrating on the exceptional and letting the Good Gestalt look after itself?

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