Mittwoch, 2. Juni 2010

The Art of Technique

The interaction of technique and art is obvious in the case of music as the artist makes visible use of their technical skills in the performance of their art-form. In the case of virtuosity this aspect actually prevails and artistic expression takes second place. This need not be seen negatively if the artistic content and a fascinatingly brilliant technique are able to complement each other. The music of the great masters is often very technically demanding.
Generally speaking, what we understand by the term technique is the ability to overcome the difficulties of our instrument. It is essential to have the goal of the instrument and body becoming a single entity, in fact, for the instrument to almost become a bodily organ. An exceptional musician is one that has become grafted to their instrument and one where the borders between body and instrument have become blurred.
It makes sense to separate technique from music and art during the working process but it is important to keep in mind that this is only a temporary separation. Contrary to popular opinion regarding instrumental technique, a good technique and fast finger are not one in the same.
Clarinet technique is made up of a wide range of differing aspects: breathing technique, tonguing technique, articulation technique, good intonation, finger technique etc. to name just the most important features. It is therefore worthwhile to spend some time focussing solely on instrumental technique.

1. The basic technique required for a specific aspect, such as, inhalation, creation of air pressure or finger control while playing legato over larger intervals.

2. The combination of several basic techniques, such as articulation, which involves controlling the pressure of tonguing combined with precise finger control.

3. Application of technique in a musical context, in which something new is required in each moment. An example of this would be if a player is faced with playing a long held note that is interrupted by an accent, in the next moment a leggiero passage of separated staccato notes that is in turn followed by an expressive section with legato over large intervals.

That said it is important to reiterate: If the basis is not laid soundly what follows will have not have a stable foundation. It is dizzying to consider the technical requirements of the Mozart concerto and the quick succession in which all these aspects have to be processed. In the case of the clarinet, as with wind instruments in general, it is necessary to note, that the process of playing is not particularly spectacular. This is because the technique required is mostly invisible. With piano and string instruments everything is visible and for that reason these instruments appear more virtuosic. Apart from small finger movements the most important aspects of clarinet playing are invisible to the naked eye. The fine control of the embouchure, the most exact managing of jaw pressure remains just as hidden as the variation of air pressure while playing large intervals. That this doesn`t appear spectacular to an audience is one thing. More importantly, however, we must acknowledge that it is precisely this feature of clarinet playing that can leave us as learners feeling as if we have to find our own way in the dark, at least at first.

For that reason we need to differentiate between two procedures:

• Work on the fundamental basics, i.e. working on and the refining of general technique.

• The learning of technical challenges specific to a certain piece.

Both the different procedures should complement each other because the possibility of artistic expression only becomes reality once the necessary technique had been mastered. Contrastingly, an artistic desire may necessitate the learning of a special technique and in this way encourages the player’s further development. At the beginning of the learning process it does, however, pay to follow a progressive technical programme. The broader the foundations are placed the easier it will be to solve specific problems later.

New release
Etudes de concert by Matthias Müller
6 solopieces that includes passages of high technical difficulty. Every piece makes specific demands on clarinettists as
• subtle articulation
• large, quick leaps
• sustained fingerwork combined with circular breathing
• different extended techniques as slapping, glissandi, flutter-tonguing, multiphonics, quarter-tones
• double and triple-tonguing
The difficulties lie not just in the technical challenges as matter of mastering a challenge, but also how it is mastered. The decisive step only comes when their technical demands can be met in a concert situation – thus when they are bound up with a musical idea.
Available by: Hug&Co. Musikverlage

I will play the “etudes de concert” at the CLARINETFEST 2010 in Austin, Butler School of Music, July 23, 2010 Mc Cullough Theater 9 a.m.

ICA-Clarinetfest 2010 Austin July 21-25, 2010

International Clarinetcompetition and 1. European Clarinet Festival
Kortrijk Belgium, Oct 30 – Nov 7, 2010