The Integrated Musician: A Book Series
I. Series Background
In 1997, the Oxford University Press published my first book, Indirect Procedures: A Musician’s Guide to the Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique is difficult to describe in a few words, but for our current purposes I shall encapsulate it by saying that it offers tools for whole mind-and-body coordination, plus a Zen-like philosophy that says, “You do better by doing less; you do your best by doing your least.”
Indirect Procedures was very successful, selling over 11,000 copies in English so far. It has been translated into French and German, and a Japanese version is being prepared.
I am currently finishing my next book for the OUP. Titled The Integrated Musician, it too is difficult to encapsulate in a few words, but at its core is the idea that music is a language, and to speak it a musician must both learn the language itself and the psychophysical tools to actually “speak music.” Ultimately the language is inseparable from those psychophysical tools, just as a painter’s inner vision is inseparable from his techniques.
The Integrated Musician includes aspects of the Alexander Technique but it remains fundamentally different from Indirect Procedures. The two books are complimentary. One says, “Coordinate yourself in a new and different way.” The other says, “Learn to speak music in a new and different way even as you coordinate yourself.”
I would like to propose a book series for the OUP based on the broad philosophies and techniques I have developed in Indirect Procedures and The Integrated Musician. The series would present applications of these techniques to more specific endeavors, with the assumption that the reader of each specific volume would be at least somewhat familiar with Indirect Procedures and the Integrated Musician.
You may visualize the whole series as follows:
The Integrated Musician
(Re-learning the musical language)
The Integrated String Player
The Integrated Wind Player
The Integrated Keyboard Player
The Integrated Music Teacher
The Integrated Singer
The Integrated Conductor
The Integrated Percussionist
The Integrated Brass Player
II. Series Philosophy
Below is a very basic, seven-point description of the philosophy behind the series.
- The whole body is ever present in all that you do. To improve your music-making, you need an awareness of your whole body, gesture by gesture. This awareness does not have to be analytical or intellectual; it can be playful, intuitive, animal-like, child-like, and so on. Regardless of its tenor, however, the awareness is obligatory. Music pedagogy therefore must include ways of enhancing the awareness of whole-body coordination. The Alexander Technique is one such way, and its insights will permeate the series. Nevertheless, the series as I see it is not about the Alexander Technique per se; this I think would limit the series’ scope and appeal.
- Nothing is purely physical, nothing is purely psychological; the interaction of body and mind is so intimate, so constant, that we can safely say the two of them are never separate. Anyone interested in whole-body coordination must therefore permanently address the mind, the imagination, the suppositions that one makes about oneself, and so on. In short: whole-body plus mind, both working as one.
- To access the connection between mind and body in music-making and in pedagogy, it is useful to employ narrative, metaphor, illustration, anecdote, and multiple means of explanation and analysis. It is not enough to create an exercise and explain it; the writer or the teacher must also seduce, convince, persuade, and do anything else needed to lead the student or the reader into the new perception and the new action. And it is imagination that bridges the gap between explanation and practice, between old and new, between habitual and unfamiliar. The teacher (the writer, the book) must speak permanently to the student’s imagination.
- Music is a language, and as such it has linguistic elements: syntax, lexicon, orthography, punctuation, phraseology, and so on. Like all languages, music has a prosody as well—that is, a rhythmic organization. To learn music, you have to learn to “speak music,” and to do that you have to learn the rhythmic organization of music.
- It is not quite possible to be well coordinated and yet have a bad sense of rhythm. And it is not quite possible to be badly coordinated and be healthy. Rhythm in all its dimensions is an absolutely fundamental element in music, in coordination, and in health. It is so fundamental that many musicians take it for granted, assuming they have learned enough of it in the early stages of training not to be bothered about it anymore. Musicians equate, or confuse, “fundamental aspects” with “early training.” But gaps in knowledge are much too common and must be addressed. Furthermore, the universe of rhythm is so vast as to be infinite; its exploration, then, is also infinite.
- Analytical knowledge of the right kind is always practical knowledge. Take a piece in E-flat major. Inside it, a modulation to B-flat major has a totally different weight and meaning from a modulation to A flat major or C minor or any other key, and each modulation has its own physicality. To understand tonality, modulation, counterpoint, consonance, dissonance, as well as historical precedent and practice is to feel music differently and perform it differently. Ideally, the practice of every exercise and procedure is infused with analytical knowledge and, more important still, analytical pleasure.
- There is a difference between a creator (Beethoven, for instance) and a reproducer (any performer playing a Beethoven sonata today). Music-making that is free, alive, and meaningful must be as close to organic creation and as far from mechanical reproduction as possible. Daily practice should be at the service of this goal, for which improvisation is a vital tool. The average classically trained musician is extremely afraid of improvising; his or her first duty, then, is to overcome this fear. Scales, arpeggios, and the plain exercises of everyday practice all offer rich grounds for improvisations of a simple character. A cellist can play a straightforward arpeggio in D major, using certain rhythms and articulations; embellish and vary it; and transform it into the opening of the first movement of Beethoven’s sonata, opus 102 number 2. In this manner, learning harmony, playing scales, improvising, and performing written pieces then become smoothly connected. Musicians can use improvisation to solve technical problems; for instance, a pianist who stumbles upon the opening of a Chopin étude can improvise a series of intermediate steps, starting with nothing but a few notes resembling the skeleton of the passage, then fleshing it out little by little until the passage is born—by which time the pianist may even feel she has “composed” the passage herself. Musicians can give themselves tasks: “Improvise an andante passage in the style of Mozart, in C Major, with a modulation to the relative minor and back to the tonic.” “Improvise eight bars in 3/4.” “Improvise a song of farewell, using a pentatonic scale.” These are psychophysical challenges as much as musical ones: knowing how not to panic, how to fill gaps of information, how to invent new instrumental and vocal techniques, how to allow imagination to do its work. When these practice habits become second nature, the musician is integrated.
A. Format. I envision two main characteristics for books in the series. First, every book will have a dedicated website with video and audio files, like the forthcoming The Integrated Musician and my proposed revised edition of Indirect Procedures. Second, since we assume that readers of series books will be familiar with the musical and technical principles embodied by The Integrated Musician and Indirect Procedures, each series volume can be light in explanations and rich in exercises, almost like a workbook.
B. Readership. The series covers fundamental ideas of interest to all musicians. Nevertheless, the level of sophistication of the ideas themselves would make it unlikely that children and total beginners would benefit from the books. I believe our readership would include professional musicians of every stripe; college and high-school students; music teachers; and dedicated amateurs. Each volume in the series has the potential of becoming a textbook for high-school and college courses
The Integrated Musician Summer, 2009
Indirect Procedures, revised Summer, 2010
The Integrated String Player Summer, 2010
The Integrated Keyboardist Summer, 2011
The Integrated Wind Player Summer, 2011
Further volumes for conductors, singers, music teachers, brass players, and percussionists may appear in later years.