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Modernizing Practice Paradigms for New Music

Periodization Theory and Peak Performance Exemplified Through Extended Techniques


Jennifer Borkowski

The author examines how new music scores with extended playing techniques call for new practice structures. YouTube access to basic instructional videos and the streaming of sound files allows musicians today to learn easily and independently. Yet, the trailblazers in new music tackled new scores without these aids; they used imagination, experimentation and tenacity. Conscious use of both learning modalities can augment ideas of practice and performance preparation; expanding new music’s reach while preserving its fire. Practice is differentiated between the quick learning for an upcoming performance and the transformative learning that new music offers. Periodization theory from sport science provides a pedagogical framework for building both mental and physical stamina leading to peak performance.
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V. Physical Preparation – Body Conscious Preparation


V.   Physical Preparation – Body Conscious Preparation

a.   Stamina in Modern Music

Before we dive into the high-wave, or body conscious components of preparation, I am going to talk a bit about fitness and stamina. In 2010, I published a case study in Medical Problems of Performing Artists35 that documented the higher physical demands found in new music versus traditional repertoire. The repertoire that inspired the study is from a group of composers using air as a compositional element, that is, all of the breaths are composed into the piece. Helmut Lachenmann, Nikolaus Huber and Heinz Holliger are some composers doing this. This is not unique to the flute as there are other works for other wind and brass instruments that use inhalingwhile-playing and breath-holding as part of the music. The difficulty in this is that there is a build-up of CO2 in the lungs when the breath is being held. This can cause a higher heart rate, an exertion headache and lowered cognition. Immediately after the extended breathing technique, the flutist might have an added difficulty in returning to the “normal” passages as the body seeks to recover from the stress. The heart will pound.

In the study, test areas from Heinz Holliger’s (t)tair(e) were contrasted with test areas from traditional repertoire. To make the comparison more pronounced, the pieces from traditional repertoire were those notorious for breathing challenges, the Scherzo from a Midsummer Night’s Dream of Mendelssohn and Debussy’s Afternoon of...

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