Here you can read a brief description of every chapter in Integrated Practice.
I tell the story of a young pianist whose parents are worried about his posture, when in fact his physical problems at the piano result from his mechanistic approach to playing. Music is a language, and to become a fluent and healthy player, singer, or conductor you need to connect all your gestures to the linguistic requirements of music. To be an integrated musician is to have something meaningful to say, and the means of saying it.
Part I: Rhythm
1. Words, Sounds, Gestures
Rhythm is the most important component of any activity. This chapter illustrates the principle by describing rush hour at Times Square subway station, where we see rhythm embodied in locomotion, speech, song, dance, and even in the sounds made by trains over the tracks. Find the right rhythms for your gestures, and rhythm itself will bring you ease, joy, and improved health.
2. Prosody, or the Secrets of Rhythm
The most important aspect of any language is its rhythmic construction, the study of which is called prosody. This first chapter prepares the way for you to become an expert prosodist in music and in life. You’re an innate prosodist. Now become an expert and reap the benefits of rhythmic mastery.
3. The Grid: A Life Principle
The Grid is an organizational principle using lines and numbers, exemplified by the power grid that carries electricity from power plants to homes and factories, the street grid, the chessboard, or the numerical relationships that underline twelve-tone music. While the grid is relatively rigid and predictable, the forces that flow through it are fluid and unpredictable (for instance, the cars and pedestrians crisscrossing the street grid). The opposition between rigid, predictable structures and fluid, unpredictable energies is the very source of life. Grids abound in the musical cosmos. For instance, the circle of fifths is a grid that lays out chord relationships, consonance, dissonance, and the entire edifice of tonal music. Beethoven is different from Vivaldi because he opposes the grid of the circle of fifths differently from Vivaldi. Learn how to use grids—and in particular the opposition of fluid forces against the grid—in order to improve your coordination and music-making.
4. The Metric Grid
Here we study one of the most important of all the grids in music: the rhythmic underpinning of metric music. We look at the meaning of the bar line, the basic nature of the beat and the measure, and the four types of energy that exist in most of the repertory we play: metric, agogic, melodic, and dynamic. These energies are in permanent, dynamic opposition with one another. Balancing them out will improve your coordination and give you technical and musical ease.
5. Coincidence: Intention and Gesture
Coincidence is a simple exercise to coordinate intention, gesture, sound, and rhythm.Discover how to bring immediacy, precision, and power to the smallest of your music-making motions.
6. Rhythmic Solfège
Rhythmic Solfège is a study of many-layered coordination involving the beat, the measure, subdivisions, impetus, and all other aspects of rhythm. Develop a strong sense of inner rhythm without misusing your body.
7. The Metronome and the Rubato
This chapter studies the opposition between metronomic precision (which is a necessary tool for all musicians) and rubato (which is one of the most prized musical skills). The metronome and the rubato collaborate to organize your technique and free up your musical expression.
8. Superbar Structures
Individual bars coalesce into larger units called superbar structures. Four bars of 4/4, for instance, can become a superbar of 16/4, where each downbeat from each 4/4 bar becomes a new beat in a larger structure that appears to move more slowly than its component parts. Superbar structures give your performance large-scale structural arcs and allow you to husband your energies in performance. A 700-bar movement in a sonata may have several thousand notes, but in fact it only contains a few dozen superbar phrases. Superbar structures help you organize your interpretations and plan your performances, thereby saving you a lot of energy and effort.
9. Opposing The Grid
Most compositions create an opposition between order and disorder, predictability and unpredictability, tension and relaxation. When you sense and understand the opposition between the orderly compositional grid and the apparently disorderly energies that flow through it, you can give powerful performances without exerting yourself. In a nutshell, it’s the music that carries the tension, not the musician’s body!
10. Patterning and Sequencing
Most compositions are built on patterns (melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, and so on). It’s useful for you to learn how to discern patterns, how to master each pattern in turn, and how to put them together in performance. Patterning and sequencing help you understand a piece’s structure, bringing coherence and efficiency to your daily practice.
Part II: Coordination
11. Connection & Flow: First Principles
Connection means a lot of different things, all of them interrelated: Connection between body parts (finger to hand, hand to arm, arm to shoulder to back to legs . . .); connection between body and mind, or between intention and gesture; connection between gestures, so that any gesture flows naturally from the preceding one and prepares the one that follow it; connection from note to note as you sing or play; connection between you and the physical world, including a connection between you and your instrument or voice; connection with the pieces you play and with your audience. This chapter illustrates all these layers of connection and discusses what these connections mean and how you can build them, using the Alexander Technique as a starting point in your quest for healthy, integrated connections. Connection is the single most important aspect of your music making.
The next four chapters introduce many exercises for you to coordinate yourself thanks to a deeper understanding of the rhythmic structure of musical language. For the sake of narrative, I’ve chosen to group these exercises as a cello lesson, an oboe lesson, a voice lesson, and a piano lesson, although the exercises are useful for all instrumentalists, singers, and conductors.
12. The Juggler: A Cello Lesson
Making music is similar to juggling several objects at the same time: You need to take care of your whole body, your contact with your instrument, left and right hand techniques, sound, rhythm, intonation, phrasing, and many other things still. This chapter explains how you can organize all aspects of your playing in an orderly fashion, much like a juggler learns to handle one, then two, three, four, and more objects in turn. The exercises in this chapter include how to become comfortable in the sitting position, thanks to latent resistance and latent mobility; how to create connections between gestures; how to create a connection between physical gestures and linguistic intentions; and how to coordinate the left and right hands. The chapter also includes seven simple practice routines to work on coordination, rhythm, and sound.Coordination and musicianship are inseparable: The way you sound as a musician is the way you think, move, act, and react as a musician!
13. Object Wisdom: An Oboe Lesson
This chapter includes exercises for standing; connecting the back, shoulders, and arms; using objects of all sorts (such as a broom or a basketball) to improve coordination; and learning how to let music carry tension instead of carrying it in your body. Learn to harmonize the movement of music itself with the movements of your body.
14. Body, Breath, Vibration, Text: A Voice Lesson
This chapter includes an exercise for the whole body and its connection to the breath and the voice; an exercise to strengthen your voice and put it at the service of your coordination; a way of using all texts (spoken or musical) as maps to good coordination; an exercise to discover how sound contains tangible vibrations that you can feel in your hands and your body; and a way to tap into instinctive and intuitive animal-like energies and shape them into healthy, powerful sounds (vocal or otherwise). Connect with your inner voice—which already lives inside you—and you’ll express yourself with effortless freedom.
15. The Quadrupedal Prosodist: A Piano Lesson
This chapter highlights bilateral transfer (the dialogue between the left and right sides of the body) and quadrilateral transfer (the dialogue between all four limbs). It includes multiple exercises to establish connections between the four limbs and use these connections to communicate with an audience. Coordination and communication work together to give you a lot of ease on stage.
Part III: Sound
16. The Harmonic Series
Most notes we produce are complex combinations of many vibrations, each note having afundamental pitch and a series of higher pitches called overtones or partials, which together comprise the harmonic series. The harmonic series underpins the working of most instruments. A trombone, for instance, can only sound seven fundamentals; trombonists produce the entire pitch range by manipulating the harmonic series of each fundamental with the embouchure. This chapter describes the phenomenon, includes exercises to increase your aural awareness of it, and suggests several applications. Sensing the harmonic series improves your control of resonance, intonation, and sound production, helping you make full, rich sounds without muscular effort.
17. The Harmonic Series and the Voice
Overtones—some faint, others prominent—give each voice its individual timbre. The healthiest voice is the one with the richest harmonics. This chapter contains vocal exercises for all musicians (and not just singers), showing the relationship between coordination and sound within your voice. Your speaking voice is a self-renewing source of energy and wellbeing.
18. The Messa di Voce: Virtuosity of Contact
The messa di voce (swelling and diminishing a long note) is the manipulation of dynamics in sound through the interplay of tension and relaxation. This chapter studies the history and practice of the messa di voce and explains why it’s the most important exercise for all musicians. When you master the flow of tension and relaxation you can use flow itself, rather than tension, to produce beautiful, healthy sounds.
19. Practicing the Messa di Voce
This chapter contains practical exercises for the messa di voce, including a study of the three roles we all play in everything we do: as actors (actively deciding to do or not to do something), receptors (sensing and collecting information of all sorts), and witnesses(observing, analyzing, and synthesizing all events into meaningful experiences). Integrate your innate capacities to “do,” “sense,” and “analyze,” and you’ll achieve greater results with smaller efforts.
20. Improvisation: A Lifestyle
Improvisation is a sort of lifestyle and state of mind: You can learn how to use improvisation to solve many, if not all, musical and technical problems, and you can also learn how to use improvisation to learn how to perform actual compositions as if you were their author, improvising them on the spot. The art of improvisation frees your creativity and gives you practical tools for daily living.
The integrated musician is connected with the Logos, the metaphysical concept that we might define as “the inward intention underlying the speech act.” To be an integrated musician is to have something meaningful to say, and the means of saying it.