Day after day I’m becoming more and more sensitized to the power of the mind in learning and performing music.
In “The Violin Lesson,” Simon Fischer says that everything we do related to violin playing is a function of our minds, not our muscles. As an example he encourages the reader to think of a past experience sight-reading, where notes, rhythms, intonation and musicality might have escaped the first try. An hour or so later, on a second pass at the music, the violinist performs perfectly. What has changed from one performance to the next? Certainly the muscles were able to play the correct notes, rhythms, intonation and musical expression. It is only the mind that has changed. Only the mind changed its understanding of the music, and therefore transforms the ability of the violinist to perform the piece successfully.
I’ve also seen the power of mind at work in our Suzuki class with Carrie Reuning-Hummel. For class we studied some of Dr. Suzuki’s writing on tone. He emphasizes the mistake of mentally and emotionally giving power to the wrong aspects of our body and our instrument while playing. Many students think about their first finger on their right hand or the movement of the stick instead of the contact of the pinkie, the vibration of the horse hairs, or the movement of the tip through space.
Carrie led us through an exercise where we played phrases of Chorus as she instructed is to consider and handful of thinking points. As she guided us from thinking about the underside of our arm, to the softness of our hips, to the sending of sound behind our heads our sound dramatically changed. It is incredibly that nothing except the focus of our minds consciously shifted, and yet our sound was completely different.
The power of the mind is also evident in an experiment one of the violinists in my studio did today. A senior violin performance major, Esther decided to prepare the first movement of the Debussy Violin Sonata completely with the mind, not touching the violin at all. She put the part together with her pianist (also prepared only with the mind) for an interesting public performance today in studio class. Her performance of about two pages of mentally prepared music showed how much one can do with just imaging, and where the holes were in the complete mental image. For example her phrasing and left hand passage work and piano ensemble was extremely clear, but the bow usage and precise intonation wasn’t as coordinated as it could have been. I don’t think these weren’t clear because she didn’t have time with the physical violin, I think they weren’t clear because she hadn’t yet completely cemented the feeling of the intonation and the feeling of the violin bow in her mind.
With the power of the mind in mind (heh) I decided to focus the first of our two weeks in technique class on shifting considering the importance of mental image of the shifting destinations.
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