The pure interpretation

March 15th, 2018

In my teaching, I like to refer to the concept of the ‘pure interpretation.’

This is that interpretation that is uninfluenced by technical considerations and instrumental limitations.

It is how you hear the piece in your mind in its full glory and expression.

And then you try to reproduce it with your fingers, without uncompromising that vision in any way.

This means not doing any pseudo rubato stuff (or any other guitar ‘tricks’) to hide any technical inadequacies or instrumental limitations.

A few years ago, I began to hear Recuerdos in an entirely new way, in its ‘pure interpretation’ state.

In my mind, I heard it played with a soaring melodic line and a sympathetic accompaniment that would speed up and slow down to support the melody.

This interpretation is as pure as it gets because I knew it would be hard to achieve.

To backtrack, up to that point, I had always seen the tremolo as having three stages of development.

The first stage is the stage of unevenness.

You have the speed in your fingers but you can’t control them yet, so the notes come out uneven.

The second stage is the stage of thumb dominance.

Here the thumb dominates. The notes have become even, but because the thumb dominates, it produces a strong accompaniment with the melody notes trailing after each thumb note. (Much like the wake from a boat.)

The third stage is the stage of finger dominance.

You’ve been able to transfer the focus of your strokes from the thumb to the fingers and now the thumb is no longer playing so strongly. Because the fingers dominate, you can focus on them individually and produce a smooth tremolo that is based on producing the same tactile feeling in each finger.

One thing common to all three stages is a metrical and unvarying accompaniment. This strict accompaniment is required because of the evenness factor.

To keep the four 32nd notes perfectly even, the accompaniment has to be spaced apart evenly.

Which means that the melody is kept in a straitjacket of sorts because the melodic line is determined in large part by the accompaniment. This is a limitation imposed by the technique itself.

With this new vision of Recuerdos, I realized that I needed a fourth stage, a stage that would allow me to vary the accompaniment and still keep the melody even.

It took me a while to work it out but I found that this stage would require both thumb dominance to produce the speed, and finger dominance to produce the evenness.

Because of the extreme speed between some of the accompaniment notes, I found I would have to forgo the mechanical evenness of the third stage.

This turns out to be a blessing in disguise, because the resulting small variations in evenness actually add many subtle nuances to the line making it more alive.

And of course, ultimately, it all comes down to that pure interpretation. Everything else is secondary.

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