Advertising and Web Hosting on Woodwind.Org!

Klarinet Archive - Posting 000237.txt from 1998/03

From: Roger Garrett <>
Subj: Re: Memorization
Date: Wed, 4 Mar 1998 17:16:37 -0500

On Wed, 4 Mar 1998, Kevin Fay wrote:
> Playing
> without music adds nothing. If you are a polished performer, you can
> have the stand lowered so as not to interrupt you interaction with the
> audience. A prime example would be David Shifrin--I saw him w/ the
> Seattle Symphony a couple of years ago, used music and was great.

There are times that memorization can definitely get in the way -
especially if the work is a contemporary one with many meter changes and
chromaticism. However, I have watched David Shifrin play the following by
Debussy - Premiere Rhapsody
Weber - Concertino
Mozart - Concerto
Rossini - Introduction, Theme and Varaiations

The Concerto was with an orchestra, the rest were all on different
recitals. I remember playing from memory on the Debussy for him once, and
he commented, "very nice memory work!" I was thrilled - but I still
almost never play from memory unless I can do it with full confidence of
playing without errors (that would occur if I didn't have the music

I'm not sure I can agree with a general statement that "playing without
music adds nothing." If a performer is prepared to the extent where they
can play the music with or without music, the lack of printed paper really
helps the performer cocentrate on more musical feelings and issues during
the performance.

> Fancy conductors sometimes conduct from memory. These are usually the
> conductors who do more dancing then conducting--you can tell who they
> are, because none of the musicians are looking at them. I have never
> seen a situation where conducting is really needed--an opera or
> recording session--where the score was not present.

I had the fortune of attending a Vienna Phil. performance of Mahler's 5th
Symphony, preceded by Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.....what a great
combination by the way! Bernstein conducted the entire program without
music in front of him.......and he was simply amazing and brilliant in his
inspiration of the orchestra........eyes were watching him frequently.
Throughout the Mahler. In the Mozart, the soloist played from memory - a
beautiful rendition - slowest second movement I have ever heard! The lack
of music really wasn't a problem for me.

> I am not aware of
> any major symphony player who has ever played a concert w/o music in
> front of them, even though the solos are (obviously) memorized. If
> memorizing really did make the performance better, Stanley Hasty or
> Larry Combs would always play from memory. They don't.

I'm not sure that I can fully agree that playing within an ensemble is
quite the same thing as soloing in front of an ensemble. I would agree
with Kevin that there is no reason to play without music if the music is
not prepared well enough to play by memory without being distracted
technically or otherwise. Otherwise, playing from memory is an excellent
way to prepare music.

By the way, the term, "playing from memory" is a bit misleading. It
implies that a person is playing what they see in their mind's
eye.....such as the musical notation. This is not really what happens -
or should happen. Musicl memory refers to the ability of the brain to
transmit the music directly to the fingers and other tools that are
producing the to bypass actual thought about the specific
notes and rhythms. The reactions to the horn are
breathing or just walking. This is called ear to hand
coordination....something that is a major learning principal of Gordon and

Roger Garrett

     Copyright © Woodwind.Org, Inc. All Rights Reserved    Privacy Policy    Contact