Coping with the abstractions of music, when teaching, often relies on analogy to help pupils grasp otherwise elusive ideas. Consequently, you end up with a bank of ideas of all the things to which music seems comparable. However, this doesn’t often run the other way round – and, in my experience, people using music as an analogy for something else often don’t quite hit the spot.
Listening to Radio 4’s Open Book the other day, I caught an article about a new, unabridged audio book version of George Eliot‘s Middlemarch. At nearly 36 hours on 28 CDs, recording this 800-page novel is a gargantuan task. The reader, Juliet Stevenson, completed it in 12 days – a feat of which many musical recording artists would be extremely proud. She talks here about the many features involved – notably rhythm (of character and also of writer), inhabiting character, and coping with paragraph-long sentences – scroll forward to 19′ 20”
p.s. if this doesn’t seem like a big deal, why not try recording yourself reading a few paragraphs?
Reckless behaviour is often the domain of those with nothing to lose. However, when it comes to pupils making recordings for this blog, the reverse appears to be true. Pupils generally play very cautiously, striving to avoid error in the hope of a perfect recording. This is perfectly understandable. Nobody wants a permanent record of an under par performance hanging around for eternity and this thought can stalk pupils throughout a recording. Only when they have a good one in the can that they can be persuaded to go for a more relaxed, abandoned and, where appropriate, up-tempo version. I find the psychology of this interesting. It’s as though the confidence required for the more spirited performance has been generated solely by the existence of a successful recording, now tucked out of harm’s way. Perhaps, in addition to the buzz provided by an audience, live performances owe their increased vitality to escaping the tyranny of posterity.
I was asked recently about the benefits for pupils of being recorded – and those recordings being posted on this blog. Normally the answers would be fairly straightforward:it allows people who don’t normally access our lessons a chance to hear them play – peers, family, distant relatives, class teachers, management, the general public etc.
- it provides a deadline by which pupils are meant to have arrived at a polished performance
- it allows more performance opportunities than the normal diet of concerts could allow
- it provides a record of work
However, as this question followed hot on the heels of a recording session, some benefits of the recording session itself (as opposed to the broadcast) sprang to mind:
- the pressure of being recorded promotes a focus and concentration not easily summoned up in weekly lesson
- although the option of a second take exists (unlike concerts) nobody really wants to do this and the red light always feels special
- the moment of truth allows pupils to experience the difference between thinking a performance was ready and realising that, under pressure, it is not quite as ready as it seemed – this all happens in a friendly atmosphere and no recordings are posted without the agreement of all concerned – pupils are invited to suggest a date when a replacement recording might be made
- when a pupil in a group lesson is recording a solo, the others learn that part of teamwork sometimes means simply taking a back seat