The Differece Between Passion and Expression

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by trickg, Sep 13, 2005.

  1. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I was doing some thinking last night about being a musician and being musical, and it struck me that musical passion and musical expression are not really the same.

    While I believe that passion for the music is absolutely necessary in order to be expressive, I became curious about the relationship between the two, and oddly enough, the thing that really triggered my thoughts on the subject was not trumpet playing, it was drumming.

    When I practice drums, often I will practice by using my Shure in-ears monitor buds and play along to tunes on a CD. I began to notice that as I really started to get into the groove of what I was playing, I started to hit harder, which is not always better. Thinking back on the subject, and thinking about some of the trumpet playing I have done, I have sometimes had a tendency to get carried away and over-blow – again, not always better.

    So, while passion can be a good thing to enhance musical expression, if not controlled and held somewhat in check, it can overrun technical musicianship and musical expression, and become little more than blaring, spread out blasting.

    Passion in music is necessary – we’ve all heard the technicians out there who play very correctly – every dynamic on the page, every articulation mark, and every crescendo and decrescendo on the page can be executed flawlessly, yet the overall effect can be unexciting and sterile. However, the opposite - passionate playing without control - can be an obnoxious assault on our senses and can also leave much to be desired.

    So how do you draw the line? How do you marry the two to where you get the best of both? I realize that this is not a new subject by any means, but I had never really thought of it in this way before, and I was curious to know what others might think, and how others might approach it.
  2. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

    Nov 2, 2003
    Interesting subject.

    For me it is a question of not mistaking passion FOR expression. It isn’t that I start to lose control of the sound, but I sometimes make the mistake of thinking the listener must have heard expression due to the amount of passion I had for the music when I played.

    That is why I am using playbacks more and more to judge expression. If I am moved by the expression of the play back then I know it was expressive.
  3. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    This may be the topic of the year... I gotta go to work but I'll weigh in later...

    First day back to work... YAY!! Beethoven 7... rotary time.

    Great topic, Patrick.

  4. Clarence

    Clarence Mezzo Forte User

    Jun 23, 2005
    san diego
    Why not express your self passionately! :-)
    That,s what happens when you play from the soul.
  5. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    Very interesting topic...I may actually make an assignment for my bands out of it...

    I am frequently telling them to "get a hold of the monster by the chain".

    Example: the slow movement Lord of the Rings by De Meij. The movement is sub-titled "A Walk in the Dark". It portrays the journey through the perils of the Mines of Moria and the bridge at Khazad-Dum. It is necessarily weighty and ominous, with a sort of grim foreboding sense about it in the opening. Too slow, and it just sounds like trudging through mud; get too loud at the Bridge (huge crescendo to recap Gandalf's theme) and it just overpowers; it becomes harsh and just plain brutal, instead of heroic self-scacrifice. Lines become lost in the orgy, and the interplay of thematic material is no longer discernable. How do we know when it's enough? Or not enough? Or "just right"? When we get goosebumps...or feel like we have just gotten off a rollercoaster (that surge of adrenalin, I mean). We have tto understand the context in which the piece was written.

    That's the gray area where there is no black and white. That's what makes a musician, not a technician. There's another piece I'd like to draw's titled Truefire, by Stephen Melillo. The climax of the piece to me feels like sitting at the top of the climb on a roller coaster, just before it launches you seemingly out of control on your wild ride. There is no fermata there; no tenuto marking on the half note, no crescendo marked into to the down beat (which has a HUGE 4-3 suspension). But if you don't do those things, it's like flat soda or stale bread or ordering a sandwich at what is a great deli and getting limp lettuce and soggy bread. But if you do too much it's schmaltzy and the effect is ruined; too much salt on these fries.

    If you go over to MyAuditions ( there is a headline article taken from the NY Sun about much the same topic...

    Here's a link directly to the story:

    I can see, after reading, where some would be offended (it does not speak well of Julliard...apologies, Manny and other Julliard, MSM or Curtis alums), but I chose to link to this because it highlights the need for understanding context in determining expressiveness. The causality and placing of blame, well, let's face it...the media loves to do that, so take that with a grain of salt.
  6. old geezer

    old geezer Pianissimo User

    Dec 26, 2004
    I understand what you are getting at - when I was younger I had a little more endurance and range, but I believe that now I am a better musician. I play with more feeling and understanding of how tunes are supposed to be played. a lot of the time you need to understand that all that dynamic markings and accents are not written in but belong there, also if you play with too much passion the musicalness [is that a word?] of a piece disapears. I believe that expression and passion are related somewhat but if you let passion take complete control you can ruin a song. just some ramblings from an uneducated old guy. old geezer Dave
  7. pwillini

    pwillini Pianissimo User

    Mar 4, 2004
    Kalamazoo, MI
    I am of the belief that expression is a product of one's passion. Let me explain.

    I play strictly in church, when I started my comeback I dedicated my music to the Lord, for His use. It's easy for me to be passionate about the music I play, I love Him for loving me. Most of the arrangements I play are my own, based on tunes I remember from my younger days growing up in an old-fashioned Baptist church in Virginia. When I hear a song in my head, the arrangement and styling come almost immediately and I am able to play the songs with great expression, great feeling, for the love my Lord and Savior has shown me. I often think of the words of the song as I'm playing, remembering "..the Old Rugged Cross" or the the fact that I'm "...Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb". It's my passion for my God that allows me to express myself through my music.
  8. B15M

    B15M Forte User

    Dec 30, 2003
    Monroe Ct.
    I believe that expression comes from passion.

    For me I let myself go completely but am restrained by my ability to play the trumpet.

    I know technically how to play and that has become instinct. That is why we do the exercises every day. By repeating them over and over you don't think about it any more. So I just let passion take over and my instinct on playing take over and restrain me without even thinking about it.
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Right! That you can chalk up to experience! :-) I also believe that expression comes from passion.

    The reason that I bring it up is because there are times when your passion for the passage you are playing over-rides your instinct to keep it in control - tpter1 gave a great example of that when he described the passage out of the LOTR music.

    There were times when I was playing drums in the contemporary worship band that due to my inexperience with playing drums, I would get caught up in the moment and really start to hit hard. Usually it took someone wincing in the front row after a cymbal crash that would bring me back to playing at a reasonable volume - I always played with excitement and energy, but it was pretty easy to get caught up in the moment and play louder than was necessary, which is pretty easy to do with an acoustic kit in a church situation.

    Even now on trumpet when the band is really slammin', and the crowd is really digging us, I'll have to consciously think about not overblowing because I'm passionate about what I'm doing and I'm having a good time, although in that context (miked, compressed and amplified) it really doesn't matter how loud I play.

    Just a few more thoughts. I guess that the point that I'm trying to make is that even though we are passionate about what we do, we also have to be smart about it and be able to keep ourselves in check, and think about it at the same time.
  10. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    Passion is what you feel.

    Expression is what you do.

    When passion is expressed so it can be understood, that's a good thing because it's clear.

    When passion becomes what you do it is only clear to you and obscures expression and that's a bad thing because you're no longer clear.

    If what you want to be is unclear, then be unclear if it is your passion to be unclear.

    If you are so impassioned about a musical phrase that you can't control your vibrato enough for me to hear what's in your heart, it's too much vibrato. If you don't care whether I hear what's in your heart, use as much vibrato as you wish.

    Passion can obscure or it can enhance your expression. Just because you say something doesn't mean you're expressing yourself. Ever say something only to be misunderstood? Ever play something, record it and think "That's not the way I wanted that to come off" even though all the notes were right?

    You can have a simple tune to play. You played it dispassionately until someone revealed the beauty of the phrase in a way you never thought of. They light a fire under you. Suddenly or gradually you are passionate about the way it should be phrased. Your expression has now changed and you express your passion.

    The most frustrating thing is when your instrument doesn't match your ability to show passion and you feel limited. It's as though your expression is locked and at the brim but never fully realized. So, you never get to express yourself fully. But the grestest feeling is when your passion and means of exprssion are so well matched you feel as though every word or note is crystal clear. When people listen to you and nod their heads up and down as you play or talk, your expression of passion gives way to the end result:



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