6 research outputs found

    Revolutionary Pedagogy: A Historical Perspective on Improvising in Beethoven

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    This dissertation will investigate the historical significance and modern application of Beethoven\u27s improvisations in performance, first by observing what we know through primary sources and eye-witness accounts, then by considering the reasons for the absence of improvisation in modern performance practice and the steps that could be taken towards reincorporating classical improvisation into modern pedagogy, and finally by offering historically-based improvisation exercises and written-out examples of improvisations in Beethoven\u27s works to benefit modern pianists

    A New Place at the Table: Ancient Cadential Patterns for Modern Improvision and Aural Skills Training

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    Contemporary efforts to integrate improvisation practice into institutional music education are many and varied, but lack of improvisatory skill remains an ongoing problem, especially in classical music instruction. Drawing on artisanal training, in which a corpus of memorized repertoire becomes a stylistic knowledge base, source of cognitive schemata and raw material for creative variation, a useful set of historically-derived “standards” can be found in the three introductory cadences used in the Neapolitan conservatory partimento tradition (It. Cadenza Semplice, Cadenza Composta, Cadenza Doppia) of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Referencing music cognition research, music theory sources and improvisation discourse, this paper argues that intervallic suspensions in these schemata (4-3, 7-6) can be seen as a simple demonstration of error perception and correction, a cognitive process that can be deployed to develop and strengthen both aural and creative skills. Integration of these cadences into beginner training also suggests a reassessment of the order of introduction of musical elements found in formal music instruction, which privileges the chord as a discrete entity, and relegates intervallic suspension, schemata and counterpoint to intermediate, advanced, or supplementary study. These cadences concisely synthesize and demonstrate contrapuntal interplay and voice leading between bass and treble voices, basic syncopation and rhythmic division, and the concept of dissonance/consonance within linear parameters as an integral aspect of musical form. A series of beginner to intermediate exercises for use in vocal and instrumental training are presented. The dissertation recommends that intervallic suspensions be given a renewed “place at the table,” once again taking their former role as primal examples of compositional structure and aesthetic possibility

    Fantasising about the past: a baroque violinist’s guide to improvising fantasias

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    The fantasia gained prominence during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. While frequently explored as a compositional form, Kollmann argued that the ‘greatest players’ ‘extemporised’ fantasies, and Rousseau stressed that a fantasy ‘differs from the rest only that it is invented in its execution and that it has no longer existence as soon as it is finished’. In modern performance, improvised baroque fantasias are largely restricted to keyboardists; on other instruments these are extremely rare. There are only a few practical guides to baroque improvisation, such as by Mortensen and Dolan, and these largely focus on the keyboard, providing an overview. Choosing instead to spotlight on the violin and seeking to help bridge the gap between scholarly literature and practical improvisation, this study draws on historical sources, practice, analysis and contemporary pedagogical literature to expand our historical knowledge of the improvised fantasia and provide practical guidance for recreating improvised examples today. This thesis is accompanied by two concerts including fantasias by Telemann, Matteis senior and Matteis junior alongside stylistic compositions and improvisations by the author. This practical element presents the findings of this research, provides insights into the process and demonstrates the feasibility of the suggested approach

    Organ improvisation in the Anglican cathedral tradition: a portfolio of professional practice with contextual and critical commentary

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    This thesis is a practice-based study of organ improvisation in the Anglican cathedral tradition in the UK. I combine exercises in the practice of improvisation in a number of musical styles associated with Anglican Church music, with documentary and sonic evidence of improvisation in this tradition, and interviews with some key practising improvisers. Context for this study is further provided by a comparative study of the very different improvisation practices prevalent in Germany and France. In Part 1, Chapter 1, I first identify the French and German traditions of liturgical organ improvisation, from the perspectives of stylistic development, liturgical and pragmatic demands on organists and characteristic types of organ. Chapter 2 outlines the stylistic development of Anglican voluntary improvisations, whilst considering improvisatory aspects in Anglican hymn playing and psalm accompaniment. These comparisons enable me to define certain characteristic features of Anglican liturgical improvisation. Chapter 3 consults sonic evidence of Anglican organ improvisation and elucidates important influences on the development of Anglican liturgical organ improvisation from the later nineteenth century to the present. The conclusions to Part 1 suggest that a distinct Anglican tradition of liturgical organ improvisation does indeed exist. Whilst there are significant differences in the expectation and demands of the organists between Anglican and continental traditions, there are nonetheless many opportunities in Anglican worship where the discipline of stylistic improvisation could beneficially be applied. I conclude that organists in the Anglican tradition could benefit a great deal from the practice of stylistic improvisation. Part 2 introduces and explains my methods in developing and realising stylistic improvisation using models from the historical traditions of Anglican church music (from Tallis to Mathias). The attached DVD is a means of recording, assessing and disseminating this new-found knowledge. Chapter 4 discusses my own processes in developing and executing historical stylistic improvisation. Chapter 5 presents a portfolio of my own professional practice, which includes the DVD project, in which I apply the continental approach of stylistic improvisation to the Anglican tradition by identifying key formulae and performing improvisations in the style of English organ composers. Whilst some Anglican organists in the UK have been influenced by continental traditions, the lack of extensive formal training in stylistic improvisation in the UK can be compensated by systematic study of composers’ styles and the regular practice of improvisation in these styles within Anglican worship. This is not primarily a historical study of improvisation, but a critical and contextualised examination of improvisation practices in the Anglican tradition since the late nineteenth century, and a practice-based testing of the potential of applying continental methods of preparing and executing stylistic improvisation to the Anglican context as a means of strengthening and enlivening its efficacy. I thus debate questions of value and functionality, finding much of value both in the Anglican tradition of free, modal improvisation, and in the disciplined approaches of French and particularly German improvisers. I note the pedagogical implications of my research, arguing that organ improvisers should develop a consummate musicianship which combines musical disciplines (such as analysis, harmony, counterpoint and aural training) in the act of improvising as opposed to the compartmentalised approach of teaching these disciplines presently the norm in UK colleges and conservatoires. In a series of appendices, I show the responses of fifteen British organists in a survey on ‘Organ Improvisation in the UK’. Furthermore, I present a list of commercially published organ improvisation CDs by British organists, an outline of English tutor books on organ improvisation, a transcription of my improvised Ceremonial March from CD 3, track 1, a list of all the reviews of my DVD/CD Ex Tempore, as well as handwritten notes on Anglican improvisation by Martin How, together with other miscellaneous documents
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