Monday, 30 September 2013 21:02

The decline of inspiration

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The decline of iinspiration
by Flavio Cucchi

Some time ago, taking part in the jury of an international competition I have been stroke by an inexplicable fact : the contestant who then won, despite being technically flawless, brilliant and musically correct, while also having a nice sound ... I did not like him.
I listened to him admired but at the same time I observed that for some mysterious reason he could not involve me.
For a long time I asked myself the reasons for this phenomenon until ' I took some clues from an American student a Chinese and a French.
The Rhythm
Recently in a tour in Asia I met an impeccable Chinese guitarists who prepared the pieces making a massive use of the metronome and on another occasion also an American student who did the same thing.
For massive use I mean that they would not put the metronome to the measure, in order to control the general rhythmical flow, but leaving some room for a momentum or a shy rubato, nothing at all: the click was falling relentlessly on the quaver or even the semiquaver, forcing the student to place all the notes in their box and zeroing any inspiration or every possible temptation to give shape and direction to the quadruplets in order to create a personal phrasing .
The student in this way systematically discouraged his imagination and I would say, it became a kind of factory worker job rather than an artistic activity.
Have you ever seen professional dancers dance? They rarely touch the ground with their feet exactly on the beat of the time, (the dancing bears do that) , they sail anticipating or delaying but always giving the impression of knowing exactly where the beat is.
It is just this series of subtle variations that make the style of an interpreter: the good interpreter knows exactly where is the time grid , but he uses it and plays with it, sometimes stretches it a bit and so on but he is never the effect of it.
This concept applies to all kinds of music: even to the percussionists .
I remember that in the '80s , when it become fashionable the use of electronic percussion (much cheaper then ' real ' drummers ) , they had to solve the problem of mechanical effect and coldness of the computer.
They had made a study of the great drummers to imitate their style.
The style consisted of personal imperfections: the great drummer so and so anticipated few milliseconds the hi-hat on the snare drum , he delayed the bass drum etc .
To conclude: playing perfectly in tempo is not very artistic, in fact any machine can do it, while only an artist can create a phrase .
The interpretation of a piece is not only agogic but also colors, dynamics, staccato - legato and in short the whole set of tricks that convey the vision of the piece by the interpreter.
The second clue as to why the flawless execution of the good guitar player I'm talking did not convince me, I caught talking to students of a French school.
These guys were studying the interpretations details and repeated them thousands of times.
For example : crescendo, respiro, piano subito.
Nice, but repeating it ad nauseam it became perfect but lifeless.
It was a pre-cooked and heated food, not something cooked for the occasion .
The concert player was doing his job but without the slightest room for a momentary inspiration, intuition, a moment of grace ... the piece flowed relentless on its predeterminate tracks, clean and cold.
Life exists only in the present.
The memorable performances that create a real emotion are created in the present , they are not the automatic repetition of a creation of the past.
The good interpreter studies very well the piece formally and technically in order to be able to run freely in concert and the only in this way ,while respecting the general idea of the piece, will be able to " say " the piece every time in a new and engaging way.

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