Sunday, March 16, 2008


Elaine Fine has a great post about that phrase "classical training". Musicians don't exactly have an equivalent to the (varieties of) classical technique practiced by dancers in daily classes (or Cunningham or Graham technique, for that matter), at least not beyond the warm-ups and exercises native to each instrument. As for practicing composition, there's probably no closer equivalent than a counterpoint exercise; I often find myself in a train or plane or waiting room doing a series of solutions to a single cantus firmus or inventing some fugal answers. Perhaps it is a bit archaic, but it does keep ear and mind nimble, in practice, and ready for something more.


Elaine Fine said...

Thank you for your comment on and link to my post, Daniel.

My mother, who was a flutist before her arthritis made it impossible to play, became an artist (a term that I only like to apply to visual art). She told me that life drawing exercises were an artist's "scales." As for composers keeping their "chops" in shape, counterpoint exercises are as close as you can get to practicing scales. They have kept composers in "shape" for centuries.

Troy said...

Is there an objection so much with the phrase "classical training?" Or is it a more general objection to the notion that "classical" is being used to designate music which doesn't wish to be seen as authoritative?

The use of single words to define dynamic groups is best used as a way to communicate to large groups of people. In smaller groups, yes, these words seem to have serious shortcomings. Elaine pointed out above that she doesn't use the term "artist" for any other than visual artists. I wonder why this kind of generalization doesn't bother her as much. I have seen many musicians and composers introduce themselves as artists.

Interesting issue. As far as keeping the ear nimble - I have started a fun exercise during the past year. I sing back sound I hear in day to day life - door squeaks, copy machines, intonation of conversation from foreigners. Probably a cop-out to practicing counterpoint, but when people think I'm strange, I just say that I'm "classically trained."