The Oppositional Principle in Music, Part 5: Ivry Gitlis, Devilish Violinist

 What I’ve been calling the oppositional principle in music is a way of singing, playing, or conducting in which the musician moves relatively little beyond the composition’s (or improvisation’s) immediate technical needs. Like all concepts, this can be easily misunderstood. I don’t think it’s good for you to be inert, passive, rigid, stiff, boring, afraid, or self-conscious! Instead I advocate a steady presence, like a bouncer at a nightclub who stands so confidently by the door that no one even tries to sneak past him. Call it “latent power” if you will. You can achieve it by distributing your physical tensions throughout the whole body from head to toe; firming up your spine, all the way from the skull to the coccyx; and pointing some of your energies toward the floor (as if anchoring yourself) and some toward the ceiling (as if unmooring  your inner Zeppelin). In other words, you “think up and down” at the same time.

You can give extraordinary, extravagant, intense, intoxicating performances in this way: the body doesn’t move, but the music soars! Watch the violinist Ivry Gitlis playing  Camille Saint-Saëns’s “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso” without losing his anchored feet and legs, without throwing his head about, and without huffing and puffing. It’s the music that goes crazy, as well it should!