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Chapter 8
swimming the day before a concert, “Because it’s very good for thinking, or finding a
For others, physical strength was essential, Antonio Borghini adding that:
There are some concerts that are physically very challenging. [...] If I know
that the music’s going to be challenging physically... I’m gonna really just
focus [on strength and stamina]. [...]It’s just like training... and being ready
not to hurt yourself.
And for many musicians involved in (Post-)Free Jazz-related musics, part of this strength
was the ability to play extremely loud for extended durations - Rudi Mahall using a
non-conventional embouchure,32 and fellow reedsman, Chris Heenan, adding that:
I used to play just like [one] note for hours.
Like low B flat!
“Urrrrrrrrrgh.............” [sings it]. You know, just play! “Urrgh...” [sings].
And just do that. Really just super loud. And I still, when I teach saxophone
today, I say “Just play super loud.” In the beginning, don’t hold back! Let
it all out. We can refine you when you’re a little bit farther along, but those
first years, you just have to belt out. And then it’ll come... I know this
sounds really weird, but that’s something I did a lot.
With quieter and less-obviously physical music, strength was equally important, Mike
Majkowski telling me that:
If I’m holding a tremolo for half an hour it’s incredibly physical, it’s very
difficult. I mean my body’s completely still, except for my arm... and it’s
really really hard to do for such a long time.
And Clayton Thomas concurred, having developed a range of original practise solutions
which dealt with the strength, mental flexibility and relaxation necessary for durational
I’m really into time-based practice and meditative practice... musical
meditative practice, and working out, like ok, I’m going to play the G
string at 30 [beats per minute] for 40 minutes, and then I’ll play D for
40 minutes, or I’ll work through a pattern of rhythmic patterns all on 30
[b.p.m.], so it’s like the 30 and then the half, and then quarters, and then
triplets, and then sixteenth notes. [...] This isn’t about whether I feel good
or feel bad, this is about “I’m going to do this for 20 minutes, or I’m going
to do this for 40 minutes.” [...]
It’s like these sort of stages of practice, with pizzicato, just open strings,
Mahall described how, “I can really help people to play loud on the clarinet, I know that. I know
how it goes, it’s a trick... you have to practice it, but I worked it out... Most people play in a way that
not too much can come out, because they play another way. They use a classical embouchure. And I
don’t use a classical embouchure, something different.”