The Power of Positive

A hint about effective practice: Think about what you want. When you hear something you don’t want, think of times or ways you got what you wanted and identify with that. And be open to new possibilities 🙂

~~Dr. Cummins

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“Angel’s Landing”, Original Composition

I am very happy to be able to share this video with you because it is the world premier of my first multi-movement classical piece. It’s entitled “Angel’s Landing” named for a trail in Zion National Park. The movements are each about a special aspect of nature:

1) Water and Sun

2) The Storm

3) Solitude

4) On the Trail

This performance took place in the spring of 2013 in the Morgan Auditorium at the University of La Verne. Special thanks to the university and to Sarah Wallin Huff and Irene Shiao of the Rose’ Trio!

The piece is written for three violins and optional soprano and is available on Sheet Music Plus at http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/Angel-s-Landing/19858581.

Growing Our Vocabulary

In addition to vibrato, there are other ornaments which we can employ in order to communicate emotions through music. There have been many in-depth studies done on the subject of Baroque ornamentation. Here we look for ways to employ ornamentation according to Geminiani’s suggestions.

The question always is which ornaments to employ, how and when. Geminiani states,

“I would not however have it supposed that I deny the effects of a good ear; as I have found in several instances how great its force is: I only asset that certain rules of art are necessary for a moderate genius and may improve and perfect a good one. To the end therefore that those who are lovers of music may with more ease and certainty arrive at perfection, I recommend the study and practice of the following ornaments of expression, which are fourteen in number; namely, (…)”

…and it is here where we will pick up our study in our next post 🙂

Let’s Talk Vibrato

I would like to return to the subject of expressing emotion through music. This is a good topic and one which we can no doubt find in other writings in addition to Geminiani’s. For today, let us look at his description of the close shake, which we call vibrato.

“To perform it, you must press the finger slowly upon the string of the instrument, and move the wrist in and out slowly and equally, when it is long continued swelling the sound by degrees, drawing the bow nearer to the bridge, and ending it very strong it may express majesty, dignity, etc. But making it shorter, lower and softer, it may denote affliction, fear, etc. and when it is made on short notes, it only contributes to make their sound more agreeable and for this reason it should be made use of as often as possible.”

Now I find this especially interesting for a couple of reasons. First it is a vivid picture of how to use vibrato expressively. Second, it contradicts the usual notion found in much of today’s historical performance practices that dictates vibrato should be used sparingly, as an ornament for long notes. There are treatises which do treat vibrato this way, for example Tartini’s treatise on ornamentation which classifies vibrato as an ornament and says it should be used for final notes and notes that are long. This may reflect an older style of playing whereas Geminiani may be speaking of a style moving towards the continuous use of vibrato which we find in many performances today.

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New Arrangement of The Baroque Project

Rather than go step by step through any whole treatise, I would like instead to proceed with our discussion thematically, arranged by topic and in this way gain a better understanding of Baroque style in general. I will draw on a variety of sources in addition to the present one in order to do this. I would like to say before doing so that Geminiani’s treatise is an excellent resource for learning things like the manner in which Baroque performers held their instruments, ornamentation, and exercises for achieving facility on the violin. We will no doubt return to these topics at a later date.