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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Interpretation Is All In The Mind

- Ways to develop it and slip into a composer’s head -

Carlos interviewed on Radio Nuevo Leon Monterrey, Mexico, 2009

Here is something which may make you uncomfortable. No amount of technical prowess is alone going to improve your interpretations, for however good your technique becomes it will not make sufficient difference by itself. Interpretation is tactile: the fingers can help you feel your way whether you have a developed technique or not. Interpretation is cerebral: it can happen by making deliberate choices between various possibilities. Interpretation is intuitive: open your mind and let the music float in and out of it! Interpretation is emotional: let yourself go, and see where the music takes you.

But enough fancy talk from me, how can you directly improve your interpretations? Well for starters just make sure that the basics are in place. Here are a few to be getting on with.

Some basic building blocks of interpretation
1
Follow tempo indications and play in time
2
Decide the phrasing and catch the mood
3
Employ contrasts of tone and volume
4
Observe expression marks

Here are three processes which may help take your playing to the next level.

Developing your own interpretation
1
Understanding
2
Internalising
3
Externalising

Let me quote for the rest of this article from In the Frame: My Life in Words and Pictures by that wonderful actress Helen Mirren as she describes developing her starring role for the film The Queen. Remember that acting is like music: it is about technique and interpretation. We can learn a lot from great actors just as we can from great musicians.

Understanding
This includes the basic building blocks above. It should also involve a clear idea of the style, structure and form of the piece, as well as its melodic and harmonic development. All this needs only to be as detailed as your knowledge permits at the present stage of your development.
Helen Mirren writes:
“I locked myself away with a suitcase full of tapes about the Queen, and sat for hours in front of the TV studying her.”

Internalising
Now you have to live with the piece. Time has its own measure so don’t hurry it. The music ticks inside you. You hear it unexpectedly while you are walking or waking up. It is beavering away into the recesses of your mind. You may even feel the presence of the composer.
Helen Mirren writes:
“I thought I did not have to do the most perfect impersonation, just my personal impression, fed by my own perceptions, as a painter does…. I had already done some work with the dialect coach, Penny Dyer. She is a genius, coming at the voice and accent through psychology”

Externalising
This is all about playing to others and performing. A lot of aspects are involved in this, some of which I have discussed in previous articles. If your understanding and internalising has been thorough, and if you have taken into account my fancy talk in the first paragraph then you will understand what Helen Mirren has to say here:
“Out of nowhere, or simply out of the effect the clothes had on me, I slipped into her walk and into her head.”

So there you have it, practise your Bach or Tarrega or whoever takes your fancy, and then (to paraphrase Helen Mirren):
“One day out of nowhere, or simply out of the effect the notes have on you, you will slip into their music and their heads!”

This has been my rough guide to interpreting is all in the mind.

5th January 2013, London

All quotes are taken from the chapter: “My Amazing Year” from the book:
"In the Frame: My Life in Words and Pictures"
by Helen Mirren, published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007

For a complete index to my blogs click here

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=2133 .
© 2017.

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