The pure interpretation/2

March 16th, 2018

I mentioned in the previous post that the ‘pure interpretation’ is one that is free from distortions caused by technical considerations or instrumental limitations.

But there is one additional factor that could get in its way and that is convention.

Convention is just another word for pack mentality. You do what everyone else is doing.

But what is wrong doing what everyone is doing?

First, it’s boring. Surely there’re more than one side to everything including musical interpretation. Why not highlight the other side or sides?

Convention is also an excuse not to think. Let someone else do the thinking for you. It’s safer too. You won’t get critiqued quite so much.

Sometimes convention is drawn from tradition. Which is perhaps the best reason for it. But only if the tradition is deep and real.

When it comes to the pure interpretation, mine is heavily influenced by the keyboard.

I’ve always found keyboard players musically more mature and expressive. There’re two reasons for this, I think.

The first is that the keyboard is easier to play. (I know piano players will disagree with me here.)

But think about it. To play the guitar, we need two hands to produce one note (most of the time). On top of that, if we have more than one part, we only have one hand to fret all the notes in those parts. In other words, one hand to play two or more parts.

And the crazy thing is, at high speeds; let’s say four notes to 150 on the metronome, we have to coordinate the two hands to play precisely together 10 times per second.

Pianists don’t have those problems so they can concentrate on musicality.

The second reason is the unbroken keyboard tradition. A tradition that goes all the way to J S Bach and even earlier.

For instance, consider the great early 20th century pianists (who include Paderewski and Schnabel) who studied with Leschetitzky, who was a student of Czerny, who was a student of Beethoven, who was a student of Haydn, who himself was a contemporary of CPE Bach.

In contrast, on the guitar, the closest thing we have as a tradition is Segovia who claimed to be self taught.

There’s of course the Tarrega tradition with Llobet as its main proponent, but there’s nothing that quite matches the long unbroken line on the piano.

So when it comes to convention, I’m all for it but I tend to look for conventions that are more about the spirit of the piece rather than the ego of a particular artist.

This is the main difference between keyboard and guitar conventions.

The conventions of many pianistic devices are directly tied to the meaning of the music whereas the conventions of the guitar tend to be tied to personalities. (For instance, the classic Segovia ‘rubato’ which has less to do with the context of the piece than to his idiosyncrasies.)

(I understand there’s been a reaction to the Segovia tradition among some players these days, but that’s for another article.)

Pure interpretation to me means capturing the spirit of the music and interpreting it without any affectations or distortions due to technical or instrumental limitations and without any blind adherence to ‘convention.’

This means doing whatever it takes to stay true to the music.

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