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What I’m Reading: Piano? Edition

I’ve been doing a lot of non fiction reading this summer. This is especially unusual for me. Here are some books on music I’ve been reading.

Piano Technique by Walter Gieseking and Karl Leimer, as you might have guessed, is about playing the piano. I was turned onto this book by my teacher. While parts of the book do go into piano-specific details (fingering, etc.), there’s quite a bit of good musical ideas about practicing, memorizing and performing.

The Performer Prepares by Robert Caldwell is supposed to help people overcome stage fright. I disagree. I think it’s about clarifying goals and realizing sometimes the ridiculous objections we hold about performances are just that: ridiculous. The book focuses on objections and how to minimize them. This book, like many other books on performance anxiety and the like, is very new agey. It’s a very fast read. While the suggestions about performance anxiety didn’t quite do it for me, I do think the thoughts about goals and clarifying objections are great.

The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green is one of the classic texts on performance anxiety. The book explores Timothy Gallwey’s inner game approach outlined in The Inner Game of Tennis. Essentially the book talks about self 1 vs. self 2. Self 1 is the critical thinking self that give that running commentary while performing. Self 2 is your limitless potential. While self 2 tries to express itself and impart a great performance, self 1 gets in the way. It’s certainly an interesting read, and it made me think. Lots of good performance anxiety strategies and great thoughts about music in general. Green’s writing is very clear and the book is an easy read.

Structural Hearing by Felix Salzer outlines the idea that tonal art music is largely based on certain structural points. Being able to hear your way from one structural point to the next (no easy feat in the expansive forms of the late Romantics, for instance) is supposedly the key to musical understanding. I think that I end up being more interested in line and motivic development, but the ideas and Schenkerian diagrams were good to get into. I can sum it up for you in a few sentences. Some harmonies and notes are important–the goals or structural points–others are less important. The functions of the structural harmonies or notes are the ones that count, everything else serves only to get to those points. While this may seem to devalue the in between events, Salzer acknowledges that it’s the large expanses of space between structural points that offer the true meat of music. I do not recommend reading this book unless you enjoy dry, unimaginative writing on music theory. This book is more for the specialist, and assumes an extensive knowledge of tonal harmony from page one.

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  1. 2009 June 11

    Nice selection. I like seeing diversified information on different instruments. By the way, I’m a composer/pianist and have some wonderful Walter Gieseking recordings that I listened to in my youth… great pianist.

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