Periodization Theory and Peak Performance Exemplified Through Extended Techniques
IV. Mental Preparation – Conscious Preparation
a. Reading and Listening Because of the diversity of new works and the need to learn a new sound language, conscious preparation means learning the composer’s language and style. Concrete listening assignments can lessen the guilt about the time away from the practice room. This is the ﬁrst paradigm shift in moderniz- ing practice routines; preparation includes more time away from the instru- ment. There is musical maturity and stylistic understanding to develop. For example, a student focusing intently on learning a Mozart concerto might not ﬁnd the humor and lightness as readily as a student who is also familiar with his comedic operas. New music is not any different. Understanding the composer’s mind through multiple works and texts facilitates cohesive interpretations. Listening should be done critically, however. A quick listen “to see how it goes” doesn’t move us further down the path towards musical autonomy. Since there is comparatively little formal coursework in new music, read- ing assignments are also important. A student should take the initiative to identify the compositional school and corresponding philosophy that the composer belongs to. Music theory and aesthetics since 1945 are largely based on philosophical texts. Personally speaking, I found Brian Ferneyhough ﬁrst accessible through writ- ten texts. I felt that I understood his thought process before I understood his music. The essays from which I have already quoted have been paramount in shaping my work. Beyond my formal work, these essays gave new music both depth and clarity that has engaged my...
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