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Hello guys, welcome to another episode of TwoSet Violin.
We have a very special, uh, video today.
We wanted to explain the concept of musicality...
In 5 levels.
Obviously it's all subjective, to a certain extent...
And so by 5 levels,
what we mean is we're going to try and explain it,
as if to different levels of understanding.
- For the 5th one, we thought we would need some help, - *chuckles*
and ask the great soloist,
violin goddess Hilary Hahn,
- to maybe teach us what musicality really means. - Yeah.
- And tell us if we are right. - Yeah.
So hopefully with the 5 levels,
there'll be something there for anyone.
- I guess let's start. - Yeah, sweet.
So back in our teaching days,
we would have to teach a lot of kids.
How would you go about it?
I think first we have to try to explain emotion,
and how emotion relates to music.
Do you feel angry?
Do you feel happy?
Do you feel sad?
What do you feel in this music?
- Oh what was that? Like "Happy Farmer"? - ...No...that's...no...
Oh, the...
Obviously, with the "Happy Farmer",
it's like can you hear the happiness...
And if it's sad, it'll be like...
Now it just sounds like...
- *groans* "I don't wanna do it!" - Lazy, the lazy farmer!
- Yes...! The lazy... - Yeah, the lazy farmer!
Or you could like...
- Like the excited, frantic farmer, right? - The frantic...frantic farmer, yeah.
Oh yeah, no I agree.
I think music is not just about the notes,
- it's also the delivery, how you play the notes, right? - Yes.
So it's kind of like this...an actor, the same line.
"I love you."
Or "I love you!"
Or "I love you!!!"
- The changes, yeah. - Different delivery.
Because sometimes...
...beginner students,
they're so worried about playing the right notes,
they play...hesitant?
- Yeah, they're quite held back, - Yes.
they kinda...they kinda do that like...
- It's very note-by-note. - Yeah.
Can you hear how robotic and like, dry, that's like?
- You gotta imagine that feeling first. - Yes.
And then you hear,
and then you go, "Does the sound I'm hearing...
- ...match the feeling I'm imagining?" - 'Cause, a lot...yeah, is it...
A lot of times,
your ears will tell your body how to adjust to it.
The sound kinda hears better.
Maxim Vengerov's masterclasses was something I was
obsessed about in high school.
And the reason because that is,
he's very imaginative with how he approaches music,
and it's almost like he's painting with the sound.
You want to spend the time to actually think about
what type of character, or events, or gestures,
are embedded in this music,
or that I want to express on it.
One that I'll always remember from Vengerov's masterclass,
so I'm gonna play like once, just...
...with, like a loving emotion, but that's it.
Just kind of like, sweet, right?
- So it's nice. - It's nice,
but he kind of goes like,
"Alright, picture the girl."
She's saying, "I love you."
And now the man responds, "I love you, too."
- Now they both— - "We love each other!"
"Yeah, we love each other!"
Argh, need to practice it.
And then the part I love is like...
Ah, the...
"No, I love you more than you!"
- "No!" - "What did you say?!"
And "Fight!"
I'm sure if you,
when Eddy's explaining the story,
the music had a different meaning to you.
And the music change as well.
The sound, quality, everything changes.
- Like your vibrato became a bit more intense, - Yeah.
um, the deeper sound became wider,
it's like guys, like you think about the guy, like,
- deeper voice. - Yes.
So the G string became thicker.
The repeated phrasing isn't just repeated.
- They...they're having a dialogue on top of each other. - Yes, the second time, they're be like...
- "No, I love you more!" - "No! I—"
Oh, s***!
Much classical music was...
...deliberately, like, modelled off like, gestures.
Like, if the music goes up,
sometimes it's like a question.
- You can't play it like, a statement - Yeah.
- if it's going like a question. - It's—there's always a—there's—
- —a question and answer, sometimes. - Yeah, like...
- ...a string quartet, right? - Yes.
- Like... - Always answering each other.
- You're bouncing off different instruments. - Yeah.
- Yeah. - It's a...nice conversation.
Taking the listener through this epic story.
Probably noticed, as long as you've done practice.
Your sound with start adapting to what...
- ...you think it is. - Yes.
- History, and knowledge! - Yeah.
Understanding of where the music came from.
We have to be historically informed,
about when it was composed,
what type of historical event they're going through,
for example, Shostakovich went through the whole
Soviet, uh...USSR...situation,
so the music's...
...as you can feel it.
On one hand, as an artist,
you don't want to sound like everyone else.
You want to provide your own unique interpretation.
And, when the composers write something,
I believe they write it, like you know,
how they impicture the music,
but they also want it to be interpreted.
But on the other hand, if you go too extreme into like,
"This is me, this is how I want to play,"
you get like these really wacky interpretations that don't
really resemble what the composer probably intended.
- The piece doesn't really exist anymore - Yes.
So for example, like...
Imagine I was like...
Oh boy. *chuckles*
It's not Mozart. It's the same notes,
but I'm playing it [with] too much glissando,
too much rubato...
There's no taste.
- There's no... - ...tastefulness!
...tastefulness in your playing,
and you may say "Well, it's my taste."
But the fact is, there's historical element to it,
and then classical music has to be kind of respected in a way,
because then what's the point?
If you're gonna be sliding around the Mozart piece.
- No. - There's so many other teachers can be sliding around.
I mean, I'll—
Obviously, the big debate is Bach, right?
Oh, yeah.
And you hear like,
recordings from a hundred years ago,
- before the whole historical performance, you know? - Yeah!
Heifetz will probably go, uh...
- But even more intense. - Even more vibrato, right?
- Just vibrato. - Yeah yeah yeah...!
And then you hear someone that's more like,
- baroque interpretation, - Yeah...
- and then their bow...hold's up here, 'cause... - Hold...like a baroque bow...
Back then, they didn't really have a stiff bow,
the string is more gutsy.
They're probably tuned down a semitone.
And the swells...
'Cause the bow used to be...
- ...designed as a swell? - Yeah, the bow used to look like that!
Definitely doing research to understand
not just the historical context, but also...
...where this piece of music came
in the composer's life.
- Very important. - Can often be very informative in
how to interpret a piece of music.
Is this during a time where the composer
was suffering from intense depression?
In love?
I think these things give so much more
meaning and depth, like,
if you hear Beethoven 9 and okay, that's cool
But then you read uh, the letter he wrote,
after he found out he was dead,
saying that he wanted to kill himself,
but he felt there's so more music within him to give,
and then you listen or play the Beethoven 9.
- It's a different thing. - It's very differe—
It's not like a "Wow!"
It's like he's frustrated, he's everything,
this is just a whole...
Beethoven 9 starts like, very dark,
and then it kind of goes brighter, brighter,
until like the most triumphant "Ode to Joy".
Where everyone comes in.
For me, I mean...
...who knows what he really was thinking, it's...
... reflects the spiritual victory of like
- going through all the hardship. - Yeah.
I would also add like for example, the time it went through...
...of Tchaikovsky.
- Mm-hmm. - 'Cause he was like a homosexual.
As you can imagine 100 years ago,
- that was definitely not accepted. - No.
When you hear Tchaikovsky's pieces,
- that gives you a different perspective. - Yes.
It's a lot more painful.
This isn't just a nice...
"Oh, so nice!"
It's like...
"How else can I tell the people about this?"
- "Is it just me?" - Yeah.
It's like, almost like mourning, crying.
So do your research.
For me these days, I'm thinking very much about
the word "phrasing".
For those of you that don't know what phrasing means,
phrasing is like a sentence right?
No phrasing would be like...
Goes nowhere,
- but with phrasing, you have... - Yeah.
- You can feel the music go all the way to there. - Yes.
I find master interpreters,
they're able to kind of craft this thing
that ties everything together as a whole.
The way they play with time doesn't come across as
- too much or too little. - Mm-hmm
Tells the story that they want to tell
- within that phrasing through time. - Yeah.
For example, sound.
And here's where like,
musically and technique really can
become the same thing,
because without technique you can't do
- what you want musically, - *chuckles*
and without musicality then
what's your technique serving, right?
You know, like...
No tone.
And I'm not even gonna change the dynamics,
I'm gonna keep it flat but just with the sound.
Immediately it's not just individual "uh-uh".
- There's a direction. - Mm-hmm.
Now, what if I want to bring out the harmonies?
Do you know what the harmonic bass line is?
Do you know where the key is modulating to?
- Do you know what the orchestra part is, you know? - Listen to it, yeah.
So you hear that,
how there's the um,
dissonance on that 3rd bar,
- now, if you play a B natural... - Yeah.
On the...2nd bar, right.
- It's a different colour. - Yeah, it feels a bit...
It's like...for some reason it's like a lighter colour,
- Yes - when it was the...
- ...B flat, it's a lot more tense. - It's more like, "Um!"
Eddy's A, the...
That's a, more intense...
There's a bit more intense—
—intensity to it.
So how you phrase the intensity going in or out
has to be dictated by...
- ...the harmony of the piece. - The harmony.
And the harmony is the building blocks of the structure.
Going back to what I was trying to say earlier now,
You can't play that too intense,
- because that's the first time the theme comes. - Yes.
it comes back later like...
So if you, in the beginning, if you go...
- You actually ruin the next phrase. - Yes.
By giving away too much.
Because you fail to see that that phrase is actually still
- building all the way till that bigger... - Yeah.
It's like a dining course,
- your entrée, main meal... - Yeah.
- ...dessert, you don't wanna give it all away, right? - Yeah.
It's shaping the sound in a way that is
informed through all the elements,
the harmony, the texture, orchestration,
- The history...yeah. - interpretation.
And then also you add on to it the characters and
- the feelings that you feel from that music. - Mm-hmm.
And technique.
Yeah, and you need the technique to do it,
You can think of it, but it's...
- That only serves a point, to a limit. - Yeah.
- Until your skills can actually... - Yeah.
...serve whatever you want to do here.
Are you ready for Hilary to now just...
- ...completely destroy everything we said? - Yeah.
So Hilary is probably gonna say
- all these other things that destroy what we just said. - Yeah.
- "No, you guys are actually wrong." - Yeah.
So what you just watched was pretty useless.
On that note, we welcome, Hilary Hahn.
How are you?
Good, how are you?
Yeah, not bad, not bad.
I'm nervous about this.
For those that are new to the channel,
Hilary is um...
- ...a violin goddess. - Yes.
We listened to her recordings a lot,
back in the university days.
So, absolute pleasure to be able to talk to her today,
to see how she approaches this deep and profound...
...topic of musicality. So...
The concept of it is kind of easy to explain,
but in order to get to the point
where you have the ability to do the most basic concept,
you have to put in a lot of time,
and learn from a lot of people,
and tried a lot of things out for yourself.
For me, the difficult part of it is
there's no real absolute way to measure
and inspect music as it's happening.
Louder is not necessarily more...
moving, or more powerful.
Loud can be anything.
If someone is shouting, it can be
that they're angry, it could be that they're excited.
You can imagine how, within music,
where there might not be words, it's hard to
say, "This means this."
(both) Mmm.
But phrasing is more like, how do you say a sentence?
- Where do you put the emphasis? - Mmm.
You have the sheet music
that only tells you relative things.
- (both) Mhmm. - The phrasing is everything that makes it
pop off the page.
Yeah. [If] you play it without phrasing, it would
kind of be as if you were reading
while ignoring the full stops and commas
and you just kept going like this
and then you don't really know what's
- being said. - Mhmm.
Or trying to read a language
that you don't know the meaning of.
You're saying the sounds,
but the rhythms, the accents, the...
way you bend it
isn't necessarily going to connect to someone who
identifies what you're doing.
But there's phrasing also in improvisation, right?
So it's not just about translating from a score.
I guess phrasing would be
anything that adds meaning to a set of notes,
if you wanna go really broad.
Wait, let me just digest that, like...
I don't have to be right.
That's how I think of it.
How do you, then,
think about meaning when it comes to that?
Like, in like, context?
When I was growing up, I...
was taught to think of music in a couple of different ways.
I was taught to think of it as storytelling,
and I was also taught to think of it
analytically, as a player.
- So... - Mmm.
When I was thinking about storytelling,
it didn't quite click for me because...
Why am I making up a story about
something in my head that's not
what the composer wrote,
doesn't have anything to do with the composer's history?
Sometimes I would be in a masterclass,
or I would be in a chamber rehearsal,
and the person in the chamber rehearsal would say,
"Just feel it."
- "Just feel it." - It's like, "Feel what?"
And I'm like, "I am!"
"I think I'm feeling— What am I supposed to...?"
"Feel it more."
I am so agonized inside!!
- I know that feeling... - Yeah. - What am I gonna...?
- When... Yeah. - "What do you mean, you don't hear it??"
It was super discouraging,
- Yeah. - because I would think
maybe I don't feel it on the level that other people are feeling it.
Just... "Feel happy!" I'm like,
"I... I..."
"I'm feeling happy, does my bow not sound happy?"
- Mmm. - I mean, what do I do to make it sound happy?
Tell me how to bridge that gap.
And that's what I've worked on, I think,
the most over the years, is just,
what do I honestly hear in the music?
What do I wanna stay with each time I play this?
And this sort of search for meaning,
plus communication, is...
really, really crucial for a performer.
Just knowing what it means to you isn't
enough, if the audience doesn't
- feel it, too. - Yeah. - Yes.
'Cause it's, music is also...
- transferring what you want to say - Well -
to the audience.
It helps to get to a point where you know
"When I feel this, this is what my bow does in response,"
or "When I feel this,
this is what happens in my hand with vibrato," or...
"If I feel pulled emotionally,
this is how it manifests when I play it."
- Yes. - It's almost like you have to
train some connections first,
and then it becomes more...
- (both) Yeah. - ...automatic.
Some people, they just have it,
in the way that's considered "intuitive."
And then they can continue to build them,
and that becomes part of their identity.
But also, if you have this sort of battle within yourself
between the feeling and the output,
it can create a lot of extra tension
- in your body, too, so... - Yes.
It's just a lot of different trial and error, I think.
What were your experiences for learning about phrasing?
I think for me,
the whole "feeling it" was effective to a
certain level, but there was a cap to it.
So it definitely helped trigger my imagination,
hearing the sound,
- but it comes a point, - Mhmm.
like you said, where...
more of that intensity manifested in tension in my body,
- as opposed to... - Mmm.
...the sound.
Almost like a crunching up?
- Yeah! Yeah, yeah. - Yeah.
Was it like a, "AHHH!!"
- Yeah. - That can be helpful at times, right?
But you have to be able to let it go, too.
Yeah! I think, like...
You can definitely see certain great
musicians of all instruments
visually, it looks like there's no emotion.
- But if you close your eyes, it's just... - Mhmm.
- the most expressive music. - Yeah.
- And then, on the other hand, you can - Mhmm.
be all emotive in your body language,
but then if you close your eyes and listen,
half of that is lost.
It's not actually coming across in the sound.
How do you actually manipulate,
with your technique, the sound to...
get this elusive thing called phrasing? Which...
- when you hear it done well, - Mhmm.
I think we all can...
- We know when we hear, like, - We can— Yeah.
amazing phrasing, we're like,
- "Ah!" - "That's it." - Mmm!
- You can tell, right? - Yeah.
It's a bit like, um...
- Mhmm. - Like you said, knowing when to tense up.
to get the sound.
- Yes. - And when you don't want to,
but have that intensity in the sound.
Yeah, 'cause no one thing is bad.
It's more like, the bigger the range you have, of tools,
and physical relationship to emotion and expression,
and your instrument, the more options you have
when it comes to the moment,
- onstage. - Mhmm.
It's almost like, if you think it, your body will go there.
Instead of dictating how you should play to get this effect,
the feeling is the number one thing about phrasing.
That first step is helpful for students
to start thinking about phrasing,
and also for listeners who have never realized
there are all these different components to a performance.
Because if you don't have that feeling,
how are you gonna turn it around and express it
- to the audience? - Yeah.
There are some little exercises, if I'm feeling
- interpreter's block when I'm practicing. - Uh-huh. Okay.
I'll intentionally play something the opposite of
what I think is musical.
- Oooh! - Whoa!
What happens when I go against expectations?
- Wherever it goes up, I'll go quieter. - Yeah.
I practice a lot of different versions,
so that when I get onstage, I have that flexibility.
I think, both in thinking and in playing,
people are often like, "No, you have to do it this way."
"No, you have to phrase off."
By questioning things, you look deeper into well,
why are these rules? Why are these phrasing rules here?
You know?
I can't think of a single case
where you have to do it one way.
Even if the composer writes a big accent on it,
a lot of people might choose not to do that.
I think there's an element of conviction.
If you don't really believe in it,
do it the way you feel it and go against what's expected,
- and see what happens. - Yeah.
I mean...
What's the worst thing that's gonna happen?
- I mean... - Yeah...!
- I have other issues to worry about, - Yeah.
like playing in tune, but...
You mentioned earlier, there's the, kinda...
analytical approach.
You wanna understand that there's a certain structure
- that was intended by the composer. - Mhmm.
Yeah yeah, it's not haphazard.
I guess whatever I do to experiment is not gonna be...
so extreme, because...
I tend to orient myself towards proportion.
The experimentation I'm doing in the moment onstage
has more to do with what just happened,
and where I wanna go.
I'm sort of balancing out the experience of that.
And I have to know the piece really well
in order to be able to do those experiments.
So I find that, inevitably, the...
first time I play something is so scary,
because I might think that
I have a great phrasing,
and then I play it onstage for the first time,
- and I completely don't believe in it. - (both) Mhmm.
Maybe I should change something about the next phrase,
but I don't have the experience to be that flexible.
But yeah, I mean, I definitely know what's in the score,
what I want to do with the music,
and I know what it means to me.
It's not just...
wild oscillations, it builds out of a lot of effort to...
arrive at a certain point.
I feel like that's something we haven't mentioned
in our one, and it's also...
- Performance experience is also - Mmm.
a part of the interpretive
nature in the phrasing that you do.
And a lot of learning experiences actually come from
- performing it. - Yes.
With what you intended to do, with the outcome.
It's like you got a hypothesis,
- and then you kinda put it out there. - Yeah.
"Oh, actually, it doesn't feel right,
with this music that I wanted."
Yeah, you can think you have a bad idea,
and then you do it by accident 'cause you practiced it.
And then it works!
- And then it lands! - (both) Yeah.
I usually get two rehearsals with orchestras, so
I don't really know if what I'm doing
will work with their style in that piece.
I kind of have to read the room really quickly onstage.
Trying something out in the dress rehearsal,
I get a very clear idea of,
"Okay, that's the direction we're gonna go in."
- Yes. - "This is the easiest way for us all
to have a powerful impact on the music."
And then I play it different ways
- in the concerts, - Yeah.
so that everyone still has something exciting to
work with. It's a dialogue.
- That's actually, the dialogue part is actually, I think, - That's true.
it would be my fifth level...
...of phrasing.
- Yeah... - Like, the communication.
You know, when you play with other musicians,
now there's...
4, 10, 100 musical minds coming together.
- Yeah. - And that's a different
- game, altogether... - How do you get all those in sync?
- Yeah. - And within one or two rehearsals?
You don't talk about it.
Yep. You don't have time to talk about everything.
You listen and you react,
and you try this, and you try that,
and you see if they respond to what you're doing,
or if they stay in their lane.
But that's when you have a large group.
When it's a violin-piano, or chamber group,
it's very obvious if you are not attuned to each other.
For the audience, it feels like a kind of,
maybe a flat interpretation.
Maybe it just feels like you don't like the piece very much,
it didn't say much to you.
So therefore you don't like the composer,
so therefore you don't like quartets,
and then you don't like classical music,
- you know what I mean? - Yeah...
There are all these elements that add up,
and everything is so personal.
If you're actually really looking at a performer,
at their typical body language,
and then you notice it changed,
that's a really good sign that
there is some sort of dialogue going on,
and I love looking for those moments when I go to concerts.
- I get so excited. - Ahh...
Like, "Ohh!! It's happening! It's happening!!"
But do you wanna do a little exercise?
I've never actually tried this with words,
but I think it makes a lot more sense with words,
to explain the concept
- of this sort of dialogue. - Yeah.
It's like if you have the words, um...
"I love this,"
you could say,
"I love this."
"I LOVE this."
"I love THIS."
And you can start adding some body motions,
you can change the vowel sounds,
you can change the articulation.
But if I were playing onstage
with a colleague who had the same phrase,
I wouldn't want to imitate them.
Unless I were making a joke of it.
But if they said something in a way I didn't expect,
I would think, "Maybe if I have a chance to say it again,
I will turn it around on them."
- Okay. - How do we do this?
Do we pick a word? Do we go like, "Go practice?"
- What's better? - How about "You need to practice?"
- Okay. "You need to practice." - Alright, okay.
- Okay okay okay. - Yeah. That has a lot of options.
"You need to practice."
"YOU need to practice."
"Y o u need to practice."
- "You need to practice." - "You need to practice."
"YOU need to practice."
"You NEED... to practice."
"YOU need to practice."
Eddy, you did a turn of phrase, which I was just craving.
You were like, "You NEED... to practice." Like, YES!!
"You NEED to!"
Let's do a quick round of "Go practice"'s, okay?
Put it on the...
on the shoulders of some people out there.
- Yeah. Okay. - Can we do that?
"Go practice."
"Go practice."
"Go practiceee."
"Go practice."
"Go practice!"
"Go practice!!"
"Go practice."
"Go practice."
"Go practice."
- "Okay." - "Okay."
- You're like, "Okay, I'll go practice." - Alright.
On that note, guys...
- At the end of the day, it's just, "Go practice!" - Yeah.
- That's all it comes down to. - Yeah.
Thank you so much Hilary, as always.
- Thank you! It was so fun. - It's been so fun.
Go check out her YouTube channel, her Instagram,
and of course, her recordings.
Anything you'd like to say? Apart from "go practice"?
I need to practice.
- Yeah. Same, yeah, same. - Same.
Please like and subscribe,
and we'll see you guys next time!
Brett: Nice.
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Professional Musicians Explaining the Concept of Musicality in 5 Levels (Ft. Hilary Hahn)

13 Folder Collection
李芷凝 published on April 7, 2020
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