Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Perfect Artistry

Who says artistry is not perfection? And who says perfection is not artistry? Is not the total package PERFECT ARTISTRY?

Meet STUDENT #1 who is developing into a very fine trumpet player. Secure attacks are becoming reliable, sound is often great, rhythm and accuracy are more dependable, and the page-to-brain skill is improving weekly. This could be a diamond in the making - a potential semi-finalist! Even with ever-improving mechanical skills, this player still needs something else however. After all, there is no pay for only reaching the semi-finals. In addition to his technical arsenal, STUDENT #1 must now add artistry, drama, exceptional sound, and presence - elements that are less tangible but vital for success.

Now consider STUDENT #2 who is eager, energetic, and innately musical. Unfortunately this player has not yet learned to harness all that talent for his own benefit. He is too impatient for painstaking detailed practice. He'd rather be performing something. His MO is "Just Do It". His good musical instincts give him a decided advantage over others, but STUDENT #2 has much work yet to do. He definitely needs to hang with STUDENT #1. Lots of serious duet sessions would be a great idea for both.

Most of us are a mix of the above. We vacillate between thinking and playing. When pressured for technical accuracy, we tend to freak and any artistry flies out the window. On the other hand, when asked to jump into the music with abandon, we often forsake discipline in order to let it all hang out. Both result in a sloppy and quick crash 'n' burn. "Stop the tape! Cut!"

Two mindsets need to coexist - perfection and artistry. They are not exclusive to each other, but complementary, and must be practiced regularly. Why? Say the conductor taps his baton, peers back at the trumpets and suggests we give more attention to some detail. We readily comply because we have been trained to do details. Then he calls for more style or more of something difficult to put in words. We quickly sense his intent and respond because we are accustomed to thinking outside the details box. There's no panicking, just producing.

A final thought on this. The markings on the page seem to fall into two groups - the tangible and the intangible, or the objective and the subjective. We have the tangibles: fortes, pianos, accents, tempo markings, etc. And then there are those intangibles: fieramente, espressivo, deciso, cantabile. Both groups of demands are required for first-rate music-making. Now is the best time to begin extending our comfort zones to daily include PERFECTION and ARTISTRY.

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