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Topic: piano playing - objective or subjective?  (Read 3704 times)

Offline jhon

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piano playing - objective or subjective?
on: July 06, 2005, 07:10:10 AM
In my view, PIANO PLAYING is an art - actually, a performing art - and I would say arts is MORE special than science because the former has both objective and subjective elements while the latter is merely geared on objectivity.  In arts, there is constant INTERPLAY between the objective and subjective aspects.

objective elements                         

mental                                               
thinking                                               
"mind"                                                 
technique (say, playing the piece correctly - technically) 
                                 
subjective elements

emotional                                                                                   
feeling 
"heart"
interpretation (say, producing your kind of musicality)

I'm not saying these two elements are that mutually exclusive (separate).  In fact, they "merge" and this what makes every pianist UNIQUE.  No two players of same piece are alike.  All this is basically the reason why piano playing could not have any scientific approach, formulas, or solutions (as being argued on the other thread) as the bottomline is piano playing is an art, not science, and to repeat, what separates arts from science is that the former is both objective and subjective while the latter is just objective.  That's why I see artists more "gifted" than scientists - learning how to be objective and subjective at the same time and how to interplay in between them as if "to create your own kind of mixture" makes an artist truly a rare genius!

As I said, it both aspects matters but which has MORE bearing in piano playing in your case - objectivity or subjectivity?  (Often, when a pianist is OVER in-touched in his subjetive side, he becomes IRRATIONAL - and this is why there are so-called "classical snobs" and "psychotics.")  Also, one effect of being too subjective is that you might loose focus on technique (an objective element) and thus, you might end up hitting the wrong notes as you are over concerned with your mood and you almost don't think anymore.  On the other hand, being over objective will make you sound like a metronome, too technical and mechanica, lacking feeling and musicality.  I believe the end goal is to have a "right mix" (not necessarily a balance) between the two depending on your skills, dexterity, proficiency and experience as a pianist.

Personally, I must admit that when the piece really MEANS a lot to me, I almost can't help the subjective effect.  Last night, I played Chopin's 1st Ballade (which I usually  always practice as my last piece just before I end at 12 AM) and OMG  :o, I almost 'became irrational crying a little in the beginning, somewhat laughing in the middle animato part, and kinda wanting to be possesed by demons in the furious finale and coda.  I think I should control my heart the next time.  :)   

Of course, the only time I'm more intouched with my objective side is when I'm playing Hanon and Pischna which alsmot has no melodies at all. ::)   This time, I would need to be too rational.


 

Offline pianonut

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Re: piano playing - sensual or spiritual?
Reply #1 on: July 06, 2005, 04:16:26 PM
to me, sensuality does not represent objectivity.  in fact, it would mean the opposite - going by feelings.  these feelings may be able to be communicated by concrete means (as you said, technique, etc.) but if the spiritual elements of your personality affect your sensuality - then you do have an interdependence of the two in interpretation (as to what you are trying to say to an audience).

i like beethoven because he was connected to nature.  he would often take walks, refresh his mind, and combine the natural world to also the psychological one.  even though there are frustrations vented in his music, he never lets them overcome him.  to me, it's taking control of your life, and not letting your feelings rule totally.  but, realizing we're part of a bigger plan.  i like beethoven's musical 'struggle' (as he was having to deal with deafness- terrible for a musician) and he decided very matter of factly that as long as there was some good he could do - that he should not end his own life.

musicians (sometimes partly psychotic as you mentioned) if they become too much into the 'sensuality/feelings' side - become irrational.  people praise them for their music - but do little to help them gain perspective in their personal life.  we are no lesser or greater than anyone else just because we play an instrumetn.  being in tune with other artistic endeavors makes you realize how small of spectrum musical expression is - to the complete human expression. 

i guess there are the rare artists that need to be sort of sequestered to work well - but, it's not a natural tendency for people to isolate themselves totally from the world.  even beethoven recognized this and at least made an effort to not cut himself off.  perhaps being understood is the problem musicians have to deal with (especially within ones family).  eccentricity.  i don't think any famous musician that i know of (including liszt) let their feelings totally rule them.  otherwise they would never get anything done.  most were extremely disciplined, read a lot, contemplated all areas of arts/sciences, and were constantly modifying or expanding their comfort zone.  feelings often do not allow you to expand your zone.  that must mean, to me, that they were also highly objective and experimentative to the actual process of music making. 
do you know why benches fall apart?  it is because they have lids with little tiny hinges so you can store music inside them.  hint:  buy a bench that does not hinge.  buy it for sturdiness.

Offline jhon

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Re: piano playing - sensual or spiritual?
Reply #2 on: July 06, 2005, 08:20:07 PM
to me, sensuality does not represent objectivity.  in fact, it would mean the opposite - going by feelings.  these feelings may be able to be communicated by concrete means (as you said, technique, etc.) but if the spiritual elements of your personality affect your sensuality - then you do have an interdependence of the two in interpretation (as to what you are trying to say to an audience).

i like beethoven because he was connected to nature.  he would often take walks, refresh his mind, and combine the natural world to also the psychological one.  even though there are frustrations vented in his music, he never lets them overcome him.  to me, it's taking control of your life, and not letting your feelings rule totally.  but, realizing we're part of a bigger plan.  i like beethoven's musical 'struggle' (as he was having to deal with deafness- terrible for a musician) and he decided very matter of factly that as long as there was some good he could do - that he should not end his own life.

musicians (sometimes partly psychotic as you mentioned) if they become too much into the 'sensuality/feelings' side - become irrational. people praise them for their music - but do little to help them gain perspective in their personal life.  we are no lesser or greater than anyone else just because we play an instrumetn.  being in tune with other artistic endeavors makes you realize how small of spectrum musical expression is - to the complete human expression. 

i guess there are the rare artists that need to be sort of sequestered to work well - but, it's not a natural tendency for people to isolate themselves totally from the world.  even beethoven recognized this and at least made an effort to not cut himself off.  perhaps being understood is the problem musicians have to deal with (especially within ones family).  eccentricity.  i don't think any famous musician that i know of (including liszt) let their feelings totally rule them.  otherwise they would never get anything done.  most were extremely disciplined, read a lot, contemplated all areas of arts/sciences, and were constantly modifying or expanding their comfort zone.  feelings often do not allow you to expand your zone.  that must mean, to me, that they were also highly objective and experimentative to the actual process of music making. 

Thanks very much for this comment.  I think I should revise the question and make it something like [i]piano playing - mind or heart, mental or emotional, objective or subjective.[/i]

I do agree that the reason why most pianists are regarded psychotic is because they are over touched into their feelings and emotional (subjective) side to the point that they even apply their attitude in piano playing in real life.  I believe piano playing is just like any other performing arts and arts in general is ideally an aesthetic representation of life's realities.  Thus, a pianist should learn to SEPARATE his attitude in piano and his attitude as a person. 

As I see it, pianists are like any artists like actors who could be given different roles (good, bad, happy, sad, angry) - repertoire in different moods.  When an actor is acting based on a specific role, it does not necessarily imply his real-life personality - same when a pianist performs based in a specific piece, say, a "diabolic" piece.  This is basically there is no sense and reason to be a classical snob.  I have been like this before and I am just learning to change. ;)   

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: piano playing - objective or subjective?
Reply #3 on: July 15, 2005, 12:51:46 AM
I know this is an older thread, but one which maybe deserved more resopnse.  I meant to respond sooner but I couldn't find the quote to save my life... and it turned up in th emost obvious place just now...
slightly addressing the topic in a more general way, this from Arnold Schoenberg:

"Art is not a science and while science cannot avoid passing systematically through every possible problem, art will only bring about those situations which are characteristic - and will leave it to the imagination of its audience to continue to dream about more."

In other words, he distinguishes between the necessity of science to engage all arguments, consider as many possibilities as possible, whereas the artist only deals with the "characteristic," or subjective.

Walter Ramsey

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: piano playing - objective or subjective?
Reply #4 on: July 15, 2005, 12:57:32 AM


  All this is basically the reason why piano playing could not have any scientific approach, formulas, or solutions (as being argued on the other thread) as the bottomline is piano playing is an art, not science, and to repeat, what separates arts from science is that the former is both objective and subjective while the latter is just objective.  That's why I see artists more "gifted" than scientists - learning how to be objective and subjective at the same time and how to interplay in between them as if "to create your own kind of mixture" makes an artist truly a rare genius! 

But about this, the fact that our bodies fit so well to the keyboard, is an opening for a scientific examination.  And though everybody has slight difference sin their bodies, surely there are scientific generalities in the analysis of piano playing that apply to all.

It is interesting justification for attempting to rate artists over scientists, but in my view not succesful and limited scope.  For example scientists also must be extremely creative to solve new problems.  New technology comes about in science because of the imagination of possibilities for creation and also healing. 

I was recently discussing with a friend in bio-mechanical engineering, certain advances in the field of heart science.  She informed me that in the search to keep faulty hearts functioning regularly, many solutions have been found from pacemaker on etc, but recently they have discovered a "useless" muscle from the lower back, that can be removed and then wrapped around the heart.  A power source from within the body delivrs a small jolt of electricity to the muscle, which "beats" the heart.  Truly an ingenious discovery.  Let us not forget that science is also about discovery, much as art is. 

Indeed the previous quote from Schoenberg comes from this context: that he was denying, in a general way, that composers attempt to create something beautiful, and rather that that comes across almost by accident.  in other words, discovery, the following of the intuition that can lead to success or failure.

Walter Ramsey

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: piano playing - objective or subjective?
Reply #5 on: July 15, 2005, 01:05:41 AM
Sorry for the numerous replies.  The quote I printed two posts bove is the right idea, but I just discovered, not the right quote!!! For what I was thinking.  This also from Arnold Schoenberg, and the one I thought of originally:


"Science aims to present its ideas exhaustively so that no question remains unanswered.  Art, on the other hand, is content with a many-sided presentation from which the idea will emerge unambiguously, but without having to be stated directly.  Consequently, in contrast, a window remains open through which, from the standpoint of knowledge, presentiment demands entry."

Walter Ramsey

Offline Barbosa-piano

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Re: piano playing - objective or subjective?
Reply #6 on: July 15, 2005, 05:30:47 AM
 I believe this is correct. We see examples such as Furtwangler, that was called a "living metronome", and Cortot, known as one of the most inaccurate pianists of his time, but Gyorgy Sandor said, that he would have hit the right notes if he had to, but the situation is that he lived in a tonal world. Myra Hess, in my opinion, had the perfect mix of subjectivity and objectivity. Her technique was superb, and her emotions were expressed in a way that makes the listener undertand the nature of the music more clearly, almost as a dramatic representation of the music. I believe that Horowitz was heavily focused on technique, as he shows, by staring at the keyboard, striving for perfect accuracy. Science is similar to art in many ways, as described by Walter Ramsey. But the movement of the arms and feeling for the music come from the primitive human art of dance and expression of feelings. This is a good thing for all of us to think about... Subjectivity and objectivity in that sense are elemental in piano playing.

Mario Barbosa
Feel free to follow my music blog! themusicalcause.blogspot.com[/url]

Offline jhon

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Re: piano playing - objective or subjective?
Reply #7 on: July 15, 2005, 07:50:44 PM
Anyways, THANK YOU ramseytheii and Barbosa-piano for at least replying to my topic which has almost been ignored for rwo weeks.  ;)
 

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