What have we wrought?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by tpter1, Dec 8, 2006.

  1. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

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    I was discussing with a horn player at last evening's performance the difference between some modern performances and some older groups ie. his quintet of the late 60's and quintets nowadays. The discussion focused around acfuracy vs. musicianship, and how so many performers now are so technically polished beyond the wildest dreams of those years. Yet, so many of them lack that certain je ne c'est quoi...the spark of musicianship that makes your hair stand up on the back of your neck. Many performances are very clean and well done. Extremely clean. He said "we may have missed a few things here and there or not have been as tight in spots as we might like, but it always had that excitement."

    I wonder. What have we wrought with all of the technology that we carry into our practie rooms now? Tuners, metronomes that divide the beat and all that (yes, I have one, too), CD's to accompany lesson books, accompaniment software that will soon be available with full concert band works and full concert band sounds apart from your own part (SmartMusic 10 is coming). Are musicians coming of age now (and I mean late high schoolers) locked into a one size fits all approach to interpretation as a result of CD accompaniments or computer-generated accompaniments that force an interpretation on you?

    Are we generating a growth of musicians who cannot think for themselves? Who cannot perform without the aid of that technology? How did Gottfreid Reich ever manage to be so good without all of that? (None of us have ever heard him, but most of us know who he was...and he lived a few hundred years ago).

    Every blessing has its curse, every curse its blessing. What have we wrought?
     
  2. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

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    Jeezaloo, what a topic, Glenn...

    It's a huge topic because there are so many issues that are sociological not just musicological.

    We are in an age where judgement has been put into the hands of many who know just enough about music to get them introuble. Many people just don't know have a clue as to what they're listening to but somehow have the sense that it's important and should listen to it. But their tools for making a determination as to what they're expereriencing is limited.

    So, what to do? They base their judgements on the widest bit of information to which they have access. What they have access to is recordings.

    Technically, perfectly balanced recordings.

    There are click tracks, multiple takes, computer-enhanced options... if you make a professional recording with a great company and can't manage to sound good then another career is worth considering. Recordings are the big lie upon which so much is based. We have singers who lip sync songs during live performances because the producers of the show want nothing but perfection. We have tap dancers who wear fake taps and have the clicking delivered via tape, faking out the audience.

    It's quite sad compared to the pioneers of recording our beloved trumpet music who are now listened to by today's generation. Today's generation will turn up their noses and comment about the things that we used to refer to as "personality' or "music of the moment' and long for the perfection that a good computer program could yield.

    So, the technological quest for perfection vis a vis artificial means continues. I'm not a metronome basher as long as one knows that it's used to develop discipline and not as an ultimate vehicle for interpretation. It's just a guide to keep you in place while the music spins around it.

    Huge, huge topic, as I said. I doubt this is the last I'll have to say about it and look forward to a great discusion from the group assembled.

    ML
     
  3. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

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    Thank you Manny, for your response. I look forward to it, as well. I suspect I will be chiming in a bit later as the discussion takes more shape.
     
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Just like in school, I think the bell curve still applies. 5% brilliant, 5% hopeless and the rest unevenly divided between the two.
    I agree with Manny, the role model in many cases is mathematically correct and musically desastrous.
    With the availability of good, cheap digital recorders and the internet, it is possible to publish the mediocre to such a degree that finding quality is a major effort.
     
  5. trpt2345

    trpt2345 Mezzo Forte User

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    Just be careful talking about technique without "musicality" or soul. Often when you say someone has a lot of technique but lacks musicality what you're really saying is that they have more technique than you do.

    Michael McLaughlin

    Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.
    Albert Einstein
     
  6. W Scott

    W Scott Piano User

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    No, Michael, that's not what we are talking about here. This is not about putting down 'be as good as you can be'. This is not even a slam on 'technique' or 'talent'. What is at issue here, is that we have exalted technique or put technique on such an altar that in the process, musicianship is often lost. Musicianship is one of those things that's almost impossible to define where as technique can be pinned down pretty well. Musicianship is something that 'you know it when you hear it', and it isn't about a flawless performance, it is about heart-soul-and emotion. Young musicians anymore, due to the polished level of studio recordings, have developed this strait-jacket mentality that says 'there's only one way to do this right'. So, when somebody comes along and plays it with heart and soul, but the count is slightly off or the sound is too bright----they get slammed for that. We should instead, celebrate the individuality that they bring. There are so few trumpet players these days to whom I can listen and immedietly say 'that's...(fill in the blank)'.

    My daughter was doing some homework the other day and it involved listening to some of the old jazz tunes played by the folks that made them famous. Without even looking, I could tell her 'that's Cootie, that's Bunny Berigan, that's Pops'. There's not many today that I can do that with as they all have the same polished, technical perfection---which is good, but the individuality is lost.

    Bill
     
  7. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

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    My first instinct when reading this was that 'it wasn't like this back in my day' but on reflection it was there. I can remember sitting through countless solo competitions in my brass band days listening to rendition after rendition of 'the Debutante' and 'Fantasie Brilliante' that were technically superb but most were somewhat lacking. To me these pieces are both lyrical and exciting and most times were just clinically delivered. The exceptional ones were those that had both technical brilliance and were moving but that was rare. And without a doubt these guys and girls had much better techinique than me...but you could recognise it when it all came together.

    My son, a guitarist, has had a somewhat similar epiphany. Now there's a market where musicality has been sacrificed for pyrotechnics. Being 17 he of course was influenced and worked extensively on Steve Vai/Joe Satriani/John Pettruci type of routines spending hours and hours listening and working on piece after piece..trying to get it as techically perfect as the record. Technology of course played it part...the internet gives numerous transcriptions for this stuff and computers can slow things down and retain pitch etc. It's all fantastic but not very musical in my terms.

    Luckily, he has broad horizons and also listens to John Williams, Julian Bream, Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Jon McLaughlin. He has recently been on a Hendrix kick and came out of a practice session where he had been working on 'the Wind Cries Mary' with one of those 'aha!!!' moments. 'Dad, the notes aren't difficult and he's really sloppy with that tune but it's a lot harder than the other stuff..I can't get the feel'. Most of us mortals can't.

    Regards,


    Trevor
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2006
  8. B15M

    B15M Forte User

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    When I first got back into playing I thought, If I had all these tools when I was in school I would be famous now. Really the truth is that everybody has these tools and it is way harder.

    I use recording all the time to check my playing for myself. I don't think I will ever resort to that thing that clips on the bell so you can see if your in tune as you play.

    Lets look at the other side of things:
    If I play the piano or vibes, am I any less of a musician?
    There is a lot that is done for you.
    What do you have to worry about? hitting a wrong note or attack and decay?
    Still I think they are musicians so if we can make our job easier with a tuner or metronome, isn't that just tools to make us more free to make music?
     
  9. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

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    Sorry, Michael, but that's fairly cynical.

    Mendez had no soul? Dokshidzer had no soul? Nakariakov has no soul? André has no soul? Doc Severinsen has no soul?

    All those men will lose more technique than I'll ever have and are first class musicians in their idioms. And all, save Nakariakov, made their fame during a time of less than perfect recording techniques.

    The more people you have exposed to playing instruments (a good thing!) the more watering down you're going to have. The plus side is a populace that appreciates what it takes to make an instrument sound well. But how many of those appreciative people will have the inherent talent, let alone discipline, to make beautiful music?

    ML
     
  10. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

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    Bill and Camelbrass bring up some excellent points. It is about that spark; that element that makes you turn your head or an adjudicator or audition committee member put their pencil down or an audience member get goosebumps.

    The technology, as Manny so eloquently put, is but a tool to be used with the music circling around it (I think those were his words...I really like that analogy).

    In many, many cases, I think the technology is abused by those in the practice room to do their thinking for them. I've heard countless students audition for jazz festivals using Snidero's Jazz Conception and never play a unique idea. I can remember 1 trumpet player who had that touch of musicianship that made me put my pencil down and just listen. As a state festival judge, I remember only 1 trombonist, who did Blue Bells of Scotland from memory, that did the same thing. That was 3 years ago. Many kids come in and just play like the CD or like their teacher has so carefully choreographed for them, without ever giving a second thought as to why or what they are doing. The notes are right, the rhythms are right, but it's cold and impersonal.

    While in college and working on excerpts, my professor always told us that we need to listen to the excerpt. He would play them for us on his (then) reel-to-reel tape, and he had a beep inserted where the excerpt was so he could find it easily during a lesson. It gave us a good context for how we should fit in. But there were those who misunderstood that directive: they listened only to the trumpet, and tried to play like the person on the recording. I admit guilt there. And that can be ok, too, I think, to a certain degree. But those who abused that or misinterpreted him, they cannot think musically for themselves. Sort of like a child who has been brought up without ever having to use his/her imagination that cannot make a stick be anything he/she wants it to be other than a stick.

    When technology is properly applied to that imagination, that's where the real power begins.

    Excellent discussion!
     

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