Phrasing and an Enjoyable Life


The master trumpeter plays and interprets music with a seemingly flawless, effortless confidence that draws admiration and appears deceptively simple and easy. But that is the sign of the master. The aspiring trumpet student searches for the path of this mastery. Good mentoring helps this. However, both experience the same musical process, just in different ways. This is why the master can sit down and play with the amateur. It is nothing to be afraid of. The master is aware of more choices, more of what one can do to make beautiful music. But, the amateur uses the brain and experiences the same wonderful chemical changes when the experience is good. With the help of a good versatile master teacher, the student becomes more and more aware of what can be done to create beautiful music, adding many musical choices.

Allen Vizzutti, trumpeter and composer wrote a Trumpet Method, Book III of Melodic Studies that is excellent for our purpose: understanding how the study of phrasing can improve a healthy experience making music. The melodies in the book are a collection of through composed form and essentially develop from reworked motives. A motive is defined as the smallest piece of sensible melody (Beethoven’s first four notes of the Symphony #5 the prime example.) To rework a motive is to change it without losing the character of the motive, even if the character changes. One rework could be another backwards. The student can use these Melodic Studies to practice technique, continuity, tone consistency, breathing, rhythm, rests, and expression. These are great opportunities for the trumpet student to play with different interpretations, thus giving them variety of choice, and the thoughtful experience of good practice and music expression.

Most of the time phrase describes the length of music that satisfies our sense of completion, or melodic movement to a cadence, or fall together. Traditionally, these are either 4 measures or 8 measures long. Not always, composers use the general rule creatively and write all kinds of exceptions to the rule for variety and interest. We learn to play these phrases, in order to make sense of the language they express. So, you can see both the Vizzutti style phrase and the traditional phrase require the same effort: to express the movement of the music from beginning, through middle to end, according to its structures.

I want to use the practice and performance of phrasing as an example in order to describe how the practice of music assists not just our enjoyment, but better health, better process and better experience of life and living, i.e. in the development of a sound mind and body. (See post #2)

The analogy, or metaphor or transferable skills that music affords us transforms us even on very small bases, such as in the case of the amateur, who feels wonderful after performance, or as we learn a deeper understanding of music, on a profound basis, such as with the professional, who lives their life according to a musically based philosophy. For example, countless community musical organizations offer opportunities for amateurs who volunteer their time for the pleasure of performing experience and Daniel Barenboim, who authored a few books describing how he uses music as an analogy for understanding and transforming life.

So, looking at phrasing enables understanding how this can happen, thus giving reason and technique for music education, expanding upon goals.

Music is a language like, but not exactly like spoken language. Phrasing, analogous to sentence or even phrase structure in spoken language, changes the meaning of music substantially, if the same music is interpreted differently. How this happens helps us understand the effectiveness of performance in music and why this effects us so profoundly. The process like spoken language promotes growth, understanding and even develops motivation. Good work. Good play.

Playing these one can look at the motives, or different areas of reworked motives, (forwards, backwards, upside-down, inside out…) and learn to identify both motive development and continuity of expression as these areas change and motivate us to listen to the end. No matter how you chose to play these changes in the music, the music becomes exciting the more you create expression of both the developing motive and the continuity that holds our interest.

Imagine what must go on in our brain to play these.

We are able to focus on one thing at a time. However, we are also able to process many things sub-consciously, as our focus changes from one thing to another. (When we walk we focus on one thing at a time, but our minds are aware of traffic lights, sidewalks, other pedestrians, cars, etc.) So, the practice of music involves monitoring your performance, listening for what you need to change or sustain, thus making the music as beautiful as you possibly can, according to your own abilities and awareness. As you play your focus changes according to the many things you are sub-consciously aware of and how you feel you need to change things to make the music so beautiful. Something comes up in your mind in the way you feel about the music and you decide to change the dynamic, or the articulation, rhythmic stresses, or motive interpretation. These come to mind depending upon your practice, which is both physically helpful developing your talent and full of what collects in relation to your mind’s hardwiring on the basis of your attention to musical specifics as you practice.

To do this helps you develop the coordinated use of the many areas of the brain we use to process music. When successful, our bodies produce chemicals that make us feel good.

In post 2, the aforementioned sound vocabulary developed from age 2 to 9, to remind, is hardwired in the brain, thus as you play you monitor according to that vocabulary. When you perform as you know: you hear, these chemicals are excited, because we do what we know is good. Our hardwiring is for our survival, so when we make beautiful music, we improve awareness of our ability to use that hardwiring for good, healthy experience. The language of music, inexpressible with words, comes together and we know we do a good job and are more capable of better surviving. When we practice this, we know better what to do to help ourselves survive knowing we do a good job of it.

Just a further note about music; we make music with others, too, who have different hardwired vocabulary of sound. Since this is about surviving well, when we make music with others, creating beauty, we realize how to accommodate, or get along with others. To work towards a common goal. Since we are social beings, this also improves our health and well being.

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