RCICW- Quotes of the week

At the end of the Rose City Workshop, I was presented with a list of the quotes of the week, most of which were mine, although a few were from Chris (marked as CZ in this list). David, being the wisest and most mature of us managed to stay off this list, which is probably a testament to the value of experience and perspective. Anyway, I’ve had a number of requests to publish these, so here they are.  Just for laughs, I’ve compiled a second list of the musical or pedagogical context for each quote below. 

I was so touched that these got compiled- thanks to all of you for writing them down and passing them on, ridiculous as they are…. 

1 Yes, effervescent in the sense of acid boiling acid bubbling under your arm… skin peeling off….

2. Imagine sliding your finger backward down a rose stem and catching every eighth note on the way down

3. Project the eighth notes with mental powers

4. Think of the articulation as being like deranged barnyard chickens- bawk, bawk, bawk (etc)….

5. On the Beethoven Richter Scale, you are a 7.2

6. Give it some fangs

7. You are starting to look a bit like Barney the Dinosaur…

8. Treat the soloist as the holy click track of destiny

9. Circles, lines and rubber bands

10. Keep this boiling in your entrails and then show it (CZ)

11. There’s that knitting thing again (CZ)

12. Do that that thing you do … that bosomy thing (CZ)

13. Haydn should never be nicey-nice.

14. Beat three, straight across, cut off their heads

15. Preparation is more important than ability

16. You know the type… lawn sprinkler conductors

17. Bite into the sound like rabid rabbits

18. Drop the stick like a guillotine

19. Soccer- soccer- basketball…

20. F*ck the technique

  1. I was referring to the sound of the last movement of the Shostakovich 1st Piano Concerto. Chris had previously asked a student who was conducting it in a somewhat heavy style to make it more effervescent, and after they stopped the next time, I asked if it could be a different kind of effervescent.
  2. I was talking about subdivision in Stravinsky (L’histoire du soldat in this case). His music must never rush, and the key to this is to have a clear, incisive sense of the subdivisions. Maybe I could have come up with a less bloody metaphor, but it works for me
  3. This applies to all music all the time
  4. I was speaking about the articulation at the beginning of the finale of Haydn 92. “Barnyard” is one of my favourite sound colors
  5. We were talking about the excitement levels in Beethoven 7
  6. This also applies to almost all music all the time, but particularly to the Stravinsky
  7. This is what happens when you conduct with your arms pinned too closely to your ribs and flop a bit with your wrists. We’ve all seen it…
  8. I was speaking about the first movement of the Shostakovich piano concerto, but it applies to all concerti.  I was quite stunned at what a difference it made when I said it. Conducting is a funny mixture of leading and following, and the key in a concerto is to NOT follow the orchestra, which one often does, but to follow the soloist constantly.
  9. The three basic kinds of baton strokes
  10. This is a wonderfully Zimmerman-esque image, and applies to everything, all the time
  11. All three of us worked on knitting issues. This is what happens when the baton swims in the beat like a knitting needle, which deflects the moment of the beat-point. It can work in certain kinds of music, but not in anything that is really clearly rhythmically structured
  12. Chris was referring to a place where the conductor in question could return to an old way of beating after staying more disciplined for a long time
  13. I was talking about what kind of happy and what kind of humour one finds in the Haydn finale. He was never a naïve composer- when he writes country bumpkin music, he’s not making fun of the bumpkins but of those who look down at them. Hence the deranged chicken theme of the finale of 92 ends up being treated with the most sophisticated contrapuntal skill imaginable
  14.  A technical direction to establish a beat pattern with maximum clarity in mixed meter music. This is not the time for lovely loops and circles
  15. Always something to remember. It’s better to be a good and prepared musician than a great and unprepared musician (unless you’re a total genius, in which case you know better than to bother reading this blog).
  16. Lawn sprinkler conductors are those whose gaze coasts across the top of the orchestra from side to side in a regular oscillation that has nothing to do with what is going on in the music or who needs a cue. The most famous lawn-sprinkler conductor is also known for his program notes.
  17. The string articulation in the coda of the last movement of the Shostakovich concerto
  18. When one holds tension in the arm and tries to give a strong or explosive down beat, one ends up forcing the arm down, which looks rather spastic and creates an unpredictable motion. The most explosive downbeat is the one that is a release, when the arm just drops without tension, as a guillotine.
  19. Ways of counting mixed meters in Stravinsky ( 1-2-12-123). Basketball is useful because a good 3/8 beat (in one) feels a bit like bouncing off of a ball.
  20. From the last movement of Beethoven 7, which was coming off as other-worldly and disengaged. The poor conductor said the reason he was being so boring was that he was thinking so hard about the technical things we’d suggested in his last session, at which point I offered the complete quote “I have to apologize to anyone this offends because I can’t think of a better way to say this, but… F*ck the technique! Be the music”


c. 2007 Kenneth Woods

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at www.kennethwoods.net

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