New Perspectives on Technique and Practice

by Anders Førisdal, Erlend Hovland

Music & Practice, Volume 4

Editorial

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In this issue of Music & Practice, six performers offer original and stimulating perspectives based on philology and analytic enquiry, reconstructed instrumental techniques and explorative practices.

Our M&P Scientific section includes four items. Anders Førisdal seeks to illuminate the relationship between instrumental practice and musical structure in Aldo Clementi’s Ricercare for solo guitar. It is the claim of the article that Clementi’s take on instrumental practice raises the question of interpretation itself as an individual strand of the composition, and that the performative negotiation of musical structure is at the heart of the work. In this way, Clementi represents a new paradigm of composition where musical structure cannot be seen outside of the performative context.

Richard Perks has investigated the potential of the fretless electric guitar, and he gives a thorough discussion of his explorations. An autoethnographic account of personal performance experience is framed with reference to theoretical constructs of performative practice and collaborative creativity. The article focuses on the process behind an evolving practice; combining practical and theoretical aspects of contemporary music performance, demonstrating that the collation, archiving and subsequent dissemination of both established and emerging techniques into the wider musical community is essential in order to promote the fretless electric guitar as an independent musical force. The article also proposes a norm for a standardized system of notation for the instrument.

Although piano music of the early nineteenth century still belongs to the core repertoire in piano literature, research on piano technique and how it may have changed in 200 years, is surprisingly limited. Using video examples to illustrate her points, Pianist Christina Kobb demonstrates how knowledge of a musical practice may be obtained through studying technique. By investigating the smallest details of arm, hand and finger motion, Kobb demonstrates the correlation between basic piano technique and phrasing.

Sergei Istomin’s article on Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a rococo theme, Op. 33, is one of a kind. Occasionally, a subject finds its best possible author. Istomin is a world-class cellist who have recently recorded Tchaikovsky’s work, but he has also conducted philological research into the history of the much-debated collaboration between the composer and cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, as well as research on the performance practice onto which this collaboration was grafted. The article spans widely and offers a complex but rich reading, and it demonstrates how a researcher with practical knowledge can reassess conventional musicological ‘truths’.

In the M&P Explorative section of this edition, Bjørnar Habbestad interviews the legendary Italian flutist Roberto Fabbriciani about the importance of experimentation, collaboration and taking risks. Having enjoyed close collaborative partnerships with composers such as Luigi Nono, Brian Ferneyhough and Salvatore Sciarrino, Fabbriciani has played a key role in the transformation of our perception of the flute. This wide-ranging discussion should be of interest for anyone concerned with contemporary music and performance practice.

In the Reports and Commentaries section, Carolyn Watson’s article on conducting offers an instructive and knowledgeable presentation of the development of orchestral conducting from a practitioner’s point of view. As an introduction to the history of conducting it offers a rarely concise and informed presentation. The discussion of technique as a prerequisite is partly rooted in Watson’s division between conducting as craft and as art, but it also opens the door to a much broader interpretation of technique itself.