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Lecture on How Pianists Elicit Emotions in Audiences

Discussion in 'Technique' started by rsteinberg100, May 1, 2012.

  1. rsteinberg100

    rsteinberg100 New Member

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    Attached is a youtube lecture I recently released on how musicians elicit emotions in audiences.

    Here is the link

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eSKAJh7kk0

    Here is a summary (interested in feedback, comments, etc.)

    SUMMARY NOTES OF TALK

    Scientists have shown that sudden contrast is what elicits emotions in musical listeners. Performers create these contrasts in the following ways:

    1. Horizontal Dynamic Contrasts - the musical line, the shape of the phrase, the shape and dynamic changes within the "breaths" of the piece

    2. Vertical Dynamic Contrasts - the volume distinction between the melody line and the accompaniment -- between difference instruments, within a chord, etc.

    3. Rhythmic Contrasts - subtle shifts in rhythms, micro second hesitation when an important theme begins (note my use of this device in the Bach Concerto 5 below), feeling the silence in the rests so that the contrast between silence and sound is manifest

    4. Mood Contrasts - extremely important - what is the composer feeling. In the Chopin Prelude below, in the forte section, the mood I attempt to convey is that the pain intensifies to the limits in the three loudest notes, compared to the rest of the peace where there is overwhelming sadness. Musicians can use visualization to create mood changes -- imagine various scenes while playing such as seeing themselves praying, hitting a pillow in anger, etc.


    5. Source Contrasts -- The most important of the contrast -- that between the field in which the musician is settled when playing and the outward state of the performer. It is the great irony that the musician must leave the world of contrasts -- go beyond ego, intellect and play from the level of pure feeling, pure fluidity to have maximum emotional impact. Very important for a musician to meditate regularly to be able to perform from this level that is the subtlest level of feeling. Yes, intellect does intervene some, but the performer should have mastered the piece so that the consciousness of the musician is almost exclusively on the finest level of feeling.

    Believe the videos below demonstrate use of the 5 contrasts (but videos of the greatest pianists demonstrate it even better).

    Rob Steinberg was a classical pianist who studied with the top pianists/assistants of the legendary piano teachers of the 20th Century - Artur Schnabel/Leon Fleischer (Peabody Institute), Rudolph Serkin (Curtis Institute), and Alfred Cortot (Paris), and synthesizes their key teachings in this video.

    Steinberg plays Bach Concerto No. 5 Largo
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6iHHhKokn4

    Steinberg plays Chopin Prelude No. 4
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9WpMnARZzs
     
  2. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Rob,
    I'm out of town right now and don't have the comfort to really sit and think (and pull resources) on this interesting topic you have introduced, but to hopefully get things started, my first reaction is to say that the performer (you never make the distinction between composer and performer, just saying musician) can only convey what is inherent in a work, and that it is the composer who creates the emotion, and it's ebb and flow. Then also, the creation of an emotional response depends on the sensibilities of the auditor. Joe the plumber will not likely respond emotionally to the Bb minor prelude of the first book of the Bach WTC the way I do -- I am highly moved by this work. In my opinion, the work is imbued with emotion by Bach, and all I can do is fail to transmit it. In general, this is better a subject first for aesthetics, a field of philosophy, then possibly psychology, but last so as one for neurology. Studying emotional reaction in music in the way you describe is sort of like analyzing emotional response to paintings by analyzing pigment composition. Emotional response is simply transcendental to medium, so it's operation probably lies in analogies to deep and internal principles in us -- principles, I might add, that are not reasonably explained by neo-Darwinian processes.

    (Disclosure: I did not hear your lecture yet, but responded based upon your abstract.)

    Regards,
    Eddy
     
  3. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    This puzzles me, being signed "Rob Steinberg". Care to clarify ?
     
  4. rsteinberg100

    rsteinberg100 New Member

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    I studied piano until I was about 20 -- have practiced intermittently since then and perform on an amateur basis -- I am not a professional pianist.
     
  5. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes that much was clear already. What puzzles me is the use of the pas tense (was a pianist). It made me wonder if there was a father and sone (or other relative) involved here.
     
  6. hanysz

    hanysz New Member

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    It's a good starting point for discussion, but far from the whole story.

    When you say "scientists have shown", exactly which scientists? -- I want names, and details of publications! --- and what exactly have they shown. Early in the video you hint at two studies. The first, from your description, seems to be about pop songs, and the other seems to be about physiological response, which is not the same as emotional response. It's easy to shock people with a sudden loud noise and get their heart to beat faster, but music is about much more than that. What about the emotions evoked by a piece like Chopin's Berceuse, or the strong reactions that people report to the music of Philip Glass, which has long periods almost completely devoid of contrast?

    Baroque and earlier composers were writing deeply emotional music long before the invention of sonata form. And I've heard music played expressively on the organ and harpsichord (although it's true for those instruments that the difference between a good and bad performer is painfully obvious, and I've heard inexpressive performances far more often).

    Contrast is certainly one of the elements of musical expression, but not the only one. And gradual contrasts are just as important as sudden ones in my opinion.

    You identify five types of contrasts. Are these based on the scientific research, or is this list drawn from your own opinions and experiences?

    Thanks for posting this interesting and thought-provoking video.
     

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