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Author Topic: How to learn to feel angry for playing Beethoven?  (Read 11977 times)
xvimbi
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« on: June 02, 2004, 04:55:02 AM »

Someone I know has an interesting "problem". She has been told repeatedly that her Beethoven sonatas sound flat and that she needs to pack a lot more anger into playing them. However, she is a person who just cannot get angry in real life. How can she "learn" to feel angry? Obviously, as a musician, one has to be an actor to some extent and be able to express any type of emotion at any given moment, whether one feels it or not. Is this a case for a psychologist, or are there ways to learn how to express emotions, particularly anger, through the piano in a convincing way?
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johnreef
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« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2004, 05:25:04 AM »

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Someone I know has an interesting "problem". She has been told repeatedly that her Beethoven sonatas sound flat and that she needs to pack a lot more anger into playing them. However, she is a person who just cannot get angry in real life. How can she "learn" to feel angry? Obviously, as a musician, one has to be an actor to some extent and be able to express any type of emotion at any given moment, whether one feels it or not. Is this a case for a psychologist, or are there ways to learn how to express emotions, particularly anger, through the piano in a convincing way?


A few ideas ---

the obvious ones include listening to noted Beethoven interpreters to see what they do .... try Hess's recording of the Appasionata for example.

Also, perhaps she is thinking too much about the technique in playing the piece and relying too heavily on her own "innate" musicality to project a convincing interpretation. Although some degree of spontanaety is necessary in piano performance, some details of interpretation should, in my opinion, be premeditated, so as to ensure the continuity of an overall concepton and the honesty of the interpretation. She should try to mark up her scores with ideas about expression (dynamic fluctuations, accelerandos, etc)....and try out these ideas with a tape recorder to see how they come off. I suspect the problem may be a result of not giving enough thought to interpretation and not having enough conviction in her ideas.

So ..... to present a good argument should we desire to do so and get off topic in this discussion .... how much of an interpretation should be premeditated? All of it, some of it, none of it? Is there any validity the claim of some that they "never play a piece the same way twice"?


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amanfang
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« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2004, 06:29:56 AM »

Here's a suggestion:  Have her make up a "story" that fits the mood of the piece.  I realize that Beethoven sonatas were not written with some sort of story in mind, but perhaps a dramatic story that she will be "telling" as she plays will help her get more into the "mood" of what she's playing.  
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janice
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« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2004, 06:36:22 AM »

Tell your friend to IMAGINE that someone ELSE is angry, like if she saw something recently on tv, like when someone went postal because their lover cheated on them, etc. Have her visualize that.  If she herself never gets angry, tell her to imagine that it is someone ELSE
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donjuan
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« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2004, 08:13:25 AM »

A performer should never get angry for real.  Otherwise, a concert would be an emotional marathon and someone will be on their way towards early retirement.  Janice has an interesting idea or imagining someone else angry and translating the images of the mind on to the piano.  But, a pianist cannot do well if they are actually angry.  So dont try!!  Right now Im working on Liszt's Totentanz (Dance of Death).  I dont think I would be able to finish learning it if I actually experienced everything in the music.  I would be too petrified with thunderous rage- the Dies Irae theme would swallow me whole and I would be an emotional wreck with a crapjob performance.Beethoven is all about control, and you wont be able to control the music, the phrasing, the dynamics- anything, when you are angry.
donjuan
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A.C.
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« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2004, 09:54:28 AM »

First and foremost, I must state that Beethoven music is never angry; or it may be very reluctant to say that. When he's young he's influenced by the French Revolution, and this is why his music was very determined and with spirit. This is different from anger. If you get angry u'll bang the piano. When u play his music u must be very well-tempered.

Beethoven has once held a small concerts, in which he played some of his own sonatas. After the concert ended, he saw some of the people were very touched and cried. He then burst into laughter and said, "You are all foolish!"

He laughed as he always thinks that music is all about cultivating; a well-educated person would not have cried for any music.

So...I think it's the same to apply to anger in this circumstance.
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xvimbi
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« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2004, 02:52:16 PM »

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First and foremost, I must state that Beethoven music is never angry; or it may be very reluctant to say that. When he's young he's influenced by the French Revolution, and this is why his music was very determined and with spirit. This is different from anger. If you get angry u'll bang the piano. When u play his music u must be very well-tempered.

I am not sure. Beethoven occasionally got really frustrated and angry with the progressing loss of his hearing as well as with bad turns in his various romantic involvements, and this is clearly reflected in some of his works. In any case, the sonata in question, at the moment, is "The Tempest" (sonata #17, Op. 31/2) with all its turmoil, particularly in the first movement.
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newsgroupeuan
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« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2004, 05:14:16 PM »

To quote another user (from a topic on performance board)
Quote
Seriously:

The only emotion that is good for your playing when it arises is a slightly joyful state. Regardless of which type of piece you are playing.

Because in this slightly joful state, you have the real concentration and freedom of movement that you need.

All other emotions only distract and lower the quality of the performance.

The notion that the performer has to go through different feelings when playing is a layman's superstition.

Best Wishes,
Monk
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xvimbi
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« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2004, 07:07:18 PM »

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To quote another user (from a topic on performance board)
The only emotion that is good for your playing when it arises is a slightly joyful state. Regardless of which type of piece you are playing.  
 
Because in this slightly joful state, you have the real concentration and freedom of movement that you need.  
 
All other emotions only distract and lower the quality of the performance.  
 
The notion that the performer has to go through different feelings when playing is a layman's superstition.  

I am not sure if everybody would agree with this, but that might be a topic for another thread. However, it misses the point of the initial question (perhaps, it wasn't stated clearly). How does one express a certain emotion through the piano if one is not able to have this emotion or has never experienced it (such as the loss of a loved one, etc.)?
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newsgroupeuan
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« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2004, 07:57:30 PM »

Ok.... sorry dodn't read the question properly enough....sorry
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belvoce
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« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2004, 12:34:35 AM »

I wouldn't use angry to describe certain Beethoven sonata movements. Rather (being a very conservative, polite and quite female), I have to think of them as being very masculine, completely lacking of feminine qualities. Might help to think of the music as lacking any prettiness. Weird idea, but it works for me.
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Spatula
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« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2004, 06:33:03 AM »

For some reason I prefer music in the minor key more than in the major key...I must be feeling umm...well
"negative" in a sense, I don't know why.  

The music doesn't have to be PRESTO angry, but generally I'm more attracted to music in the minor key.  how about you?
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faulty_damper
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« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2004, 11:10:28 AM »

If she is not the type to be "angry", then I assume she just doesn't have wrinkles on her face.  I am a very "emotional" player, so to speak.  I know exactly how a piece should be interpreted just be the moods of the piece.

This is how I interpret pieces:

1.  This is about knowing what the piece is about.  If the piece is the "Cuckoo" sonata by Beethoven, then I know it should be played lightly and prancingly.  If it is the "Hunt" sonata, then I know it should be played as if the rabbit if being chased and the hunter stalking.  Knowing what the piece is about, its mood, is important.  His Op. 129, Rage Over a Lost Penny, is some very angry music.  It should be played fast and "angry" (He lost his penny.  You know him, he'll be cursing all day.)  Some music I find is void of any mood.  Some of Bach's music is void of any emotion so if I were to play them, I'd play it rather staight forward.  Some of Mozart's music is void of emotion, or at least, I find it to be void of it.

Once I know the mood of a piece, then I just play it the way it should be played according to the mood.  Here's how:

2.  My face shows the emotions.  If it is to be played expressione, then my face changes to be expressive (this word doesn't help convey much, I know).  If it is fast and thrusting, my face becomes stern... etc.

The reason I use facial expressions is this: it changes my mood.  There is a science to this.  If a person feels sad or depressed, all he has to do is fake a smile and in a very short time, he'll feel happy.  All emotions are controlled by chemicals released into the body (dopamine, seratonin, oxytocin,etc.)  When a person smiles, the act of using the smile muscles releases "happy" chemicals and it makes you feel happy.  Frown and the person will feel sad.  This is why I use facial expressions while I play because it helps me to play more expressively.

This same purposeful evocation of expression is what I use to guide how I play the next phrase - should it be forte, soft, rubato (rubato is very important in my playing), etc.

If I don't use facial expressions, I rely too much on my thinking to play expressively.  And thinking isn't something that should be done when playing expressively, that's the job of my emotions.

----

However, I don't think this would work for her.  My sister plays unexpressively.  So do some of my teachers female students.  They are able to play difficult pieces, and they sound alright, but they lack so much expression that is sounds "flat".  Contrary, her male students are rather very expressively.  Aha!  This is the beginning of a new thread:  Gender and differences in playing expressively.
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Lilo
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« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2004, 08:38:23 PM »

how to learn to feel angry for playing beethoven...

if you have no idea of the way it has to be played, then don't play them... You cannot write a poem about love or hatred if you never experienced this feeling before, am I wrong ?

So, you will never be able to play if you don't feel yourself angry, sad, happy as you perform, or you'll get a music void of emotion... for example Bach's music is not void of emotion. Bach was a great composer (it makes me smile when I read amateurs criticizing geniuses such as Mozart, or Bach...) so I don't like people writing "Bach's music is void of any emotion".
  You'd rather say "I experience no emotions as I play his music" (just a question, if you don't like it, why do you play it ?). Most people play it "voidly", so it seems ugly. But it can be beautiful. I didn't like Haendel's harpsichords sonatas until I met a pianist who showed me how nice it could be.

Beethoven's sonatas are not "angry"... you can play them with anger, sadness, sometimes joy (he composed so many sonatas, and each movement is different from the former... you can express much more than anger  Roll Eyes ). You just have to play it over and over again, and try to express your feelings through the music. Your own feelings. You will never play it the same way as Beethoven did. You have a few indications about its interpretation, and then just do what you want

You have to look at the piano as if it was a "tool" (I don't know the right word) which helps you expressing your feelings. I would add, any kind of feelings, emotions.

Somebody wrote that emotions (except joy) lower the quality of your performance... Well, I don't think Beethoven, Mozart,or Wagner were always experiencing a "slightly joyful state" as they were composing. Maybe some of you use to play "joyfully" a Requiem, or a funeral march to get a "real concentration", but I think this is stupid. There are pieces to be played joyfully, and others to be played in a different way...
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benji
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« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2004, 05:08:11 AM »

Adding on to what others have said, a lot of music is not simply "angry" and "sad," but sinister, furious, tragic, yearning. No two pieces have the same driving force.

Heck, if your friend likes the way she plays it, she shouldn't change a thing.
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xvimbi
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« Reply #15 on: June 05, 2004, 05:13:03 AM »

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Adding on to what others have said, a lot of music is not simply "angry" and "sad," but sinister, furious, tragic, yearning. No two pieces have the same driving force.

Heck, if your friend likes the way she plays it, she shouldn't change a thing.

All good advice. However, it's the parts that are truely angry and should be played "angrily" that are the problematic ones. She does not like the way she plays them, and she acknowledges what others perceive as well, namely that those passages sound flat. It's not about the tragic or yearning parts, it's about the angry and furious parts.
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