Prominent Cellists help Barry Green find an answers to:
The Mastery of Music
Ten Pathways to True Artistry
New book from Broadway/Doubleday Publication May 03
It has been over twenty years since the publication of The Inner Game of Music. The Inner Game concepts were born out of W. Timothy Gallwey's search for the answer to why he lost a match point at a National Junior Tennis Championship. Since then the Inner Game has become a standard text for understanding the nature of mental interference in the varied arenas of sports, arts, and, more recently, business.
It has been an honor to help develop Gallwey's simple concepts for people in the performing arts. This has provided me a transformative opportunity to learn from not only bass players, but from cellists, educators, and performers of all instruments, voice, and all types of ensembles, including chamber and popular music.
Some five years ago I was sent looking for my own answer to a coaching challenge where my Inner Game techniques fell short. I was truly 'stumped' during an Inner Game demonstration with a singer. Like Gallwey's missed shot, I left this workshop looking for something 'beyond.' The singer demonstrated all that I could ask for. She sang in tune and her technique and diction were excellent. Furthermore, she knew the 'Inner Game techniques.' She was able to do virtually everything I asked. Even though she had superb concentration -- no nerves -- something was missing. It wasn't about the music, the command of her voice, or her focus, it was about HER. I wondered to myself whether it could be that she lacked courage, passion, and creativity in her expression? I wanted to tell her she needed to live in this world more fully, develop her personal skills so that she has something more interesting to communicate as a musician. But that's not really Inner Game is it? Can this stuff be taught? Should it be taught? This was the beginning of my four-year search, which has resulted in what I believe to be a most important gold mine of knowledge. I am now excited to share it in my new book, called The Mastery of Music, Ten Pathways to True Artistry (publication May '03).
My search was for excellence or perhaps what you might call 'true mastery.' What is the difference between the good, the young talent, the competent, and the truly great? Is it something that can be learned by everyone and even taught in our schools or lessons? I am emphatically and enthusiastically convinced that the answer is YES. Granted, we are not all going to play like Yo-Yo Ma or Janos Starker. But we can learn from the pathways that so many great artists have taken and we can develop ourselves in ways that I had not previously thought possible. Over the past four years I have interviewed over 120 great classical and popular artists, including Dave Brubeck, Frederica von Stade, Joshua Bell, Christopher Parkening, Jeffrey Kahane, Bobby McFerrin, Fred Hersch, Evelyn Glennie, Dale Clevinger, Cleo Laine, Doc Severinsen, Gary Karr, Craig Jessop, and Gunther Schuller. Cellists interviewed included: Janos Starker, Robert Cohen, Stephen Isserlis, David Darling, Danny Rothmueller, Natalie Clein, Irene Sharp, Carter Brey, Joan Jeanrenaud, Pamela Frame, and Bonnie Hampton. I cited published sources from Pablo Casals, Jacqueline du Pré, William Pleeth, Yo-Yo Ma and others. With the help of my friend, Tim Janof, I was able to use several excerpts from his wonderful internet interviews with artists like Lynn Harrell and others.
TWO amazing stories unfolded from these interviews. The first thing I observed is that the pursuit of excellence is similar in any human endeavor. Once the question of 'what was missing' in the singer was on my mind, I began to notice clues from reading the newspaper and watching the news. A new CEO was hired to rescue a failed computer company. An All-Star baseball player mysteriously died in the prime of his career. A symphony's Executive Director retired and was given a gala farewell. These people were all hired and immortalized or honored, NOT for their accomplishments, but rather for their unique demonstration of the human spirit. They were being extolled for their visions, their PASSION for life and work, their DEDICATION, their sense of HUMOR, their TOLERANCE or ability to get along with others, their talent for COMMUNICATING and INSPIRING others, their HUMILITY, and their FOCUS, CONFIDENCE and COURAGE. Hmmm…interesting.
You spend your entire life chasing one kind of rainbow -- learning an instrument, getting a degree, getting a job, being successful, cranking out CD's, playing in string quartets, and engaging in performance after performance. And yet when it is all over and done, you are remembered more for your smile, your ability to get people to work together, your creativity and confidence. Once again: Hmmm.
Think about this for a moment. Are we missing something in our musical training? Are we neglecting to give our students and ourselves the very skills that are truly necessary in order to achieve excellence and respect, and to make a lasting contribution on Earth? Is it possible that just mastering our instruments and our Zen-like states of concentration isn't ALL that is necessary to negotiate some very important things in our life and work? Recognizing this 'missing link' was the first inspiration that sent me exploring this fascinating landscape of excellence and artistry. It sent me down a new pathway, filled with questions and curiosity. I then came up with ten 'Pathways' that I felt would begin the journey. Soon I realized that the real message of this journey is endless and it doesn't really stop at these ten qualities. It only begins with ten. There is the expression, "The Joy is in the Journey." This works for me.
This endless journey of self-development was further affirmed when I interviewed the celebrated English composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. He told me that he doesn't really care if his music is played after he leaves this earth. He said: That's not what I am doing it for. It is an ongoing process of self-refinement, fine honing. It is absolutely in tandem with the development of personality. I mean that in the real sense. Playing your own music … allows you to learn things about yourself. It never stops. It is an ongoing process.
The second part of the discovery-journey occurs when we begin to explore these ten qualities of the human spirit as a source or 'key' to excellence. Then the best part is yet to come.
One of my first interviews was Chicago Symphony Principal horn, Dale Clevinger. I had been exploring COURAGE with musicians whom I felt embodied and specialized in this quality in their work: namely percussionists and horn players. I had my agenda, my points to prove, and my own theories of courage. But Dale told me something different. When you learn what fuels his spirit to overcome anxious moments, you may get goose bumps! This started the ball rolling down my path of discovery and exploration. It reminded me of Zen-like Inner Game principles. "The harder you try, the worse you get … Less is more and more is less."
Whatever you might think of these ten pathways, you will probably find that they are quite contrary to your current conceptions. The points of view were so different and engaging that I couldn't sleep after I got off the phone with musicians such as James Dunham, Libby Larsen, Robert Cohen, Peter Schickele, Nnenna Freelon, and Steven Isserlis. We explored ten pathways to artistry from the human spirit. This was my journey.
And what pathway is explored with all these great cellists? That's perhaps one of the easiest and least controversial pathways of the ten discussed in the book. It's the one quality of the human spirit that is so often associated with the cello and reaches directly into the soul of the performer and the listener -- with envy from singers like Placido Domingo who asked Jacqueline Du Pré for cello lessons. We are talking about PASSION. Of course passion can be explored and expressed by great violinists or pianists. However how can one not be interested to hear from cellists who are known to be passionate about life, about music, and about their special instrument?
I must confess, I learned so much from my interviews with cellists on this topic that it has dramatically changed the way I play my bass. It started with Casals when he said that passion comes from what we learn from love -- love of nature, of music and of man. This was the beginning. All of a sudden it began to make sense. I heard stories about Margaret Rowell, who would get her students to expand their studies of music to include a love of nature, art, and the world around us. How can you express passion in music when you don't feel it in your soul? When I learned of the cellist from Sarajevo, Vedran Smailovic playing the Albinoni's lyrical Adagio during the lulls of sniper and artillery fire in tribute to twenty-two fallen colleagues, this represented a passion for people and life. Then Joan Jeanrenaud, Bonnie Hampton, Carter Brey, and David Darling expained to me how they fell in love with the cello. But what they were really describing was just 'falling in love'. Perhaps this was one of the keys to artistry. If it is love we are wanting to express with our musical instruments, then how can we bring it to the stage?
Most cellists I spoke with were are reluctant to even discuss passion without balancing the emotion with some kind of perspective. Having personally studied with cellist Janos Starker and after speaking with Carter Brey, it is clear to these artists that the pathway to expression from the soul is through discipline. Discipline is a pathway to liberate the spirit but without technique Starker said:, all your idealism is for zilch.
Once we embark on this pathway (with discipline) towards passion, I learned that there are several specific ways to access the emotions in our soul that can transcend our instruments. Sacred spaces (natural environments, historic halls, churches are examples). Steven Isserlis described his experience playing all six Bach Suites in the magical physical atmosphere of London's historic Wigmore Hall on his 'DeMunck' or 'Feuermann' Stradivarius. He explained the emotionally charged audience equally contributed to his ability to access his best playing.
Natalie Clein described the sacred experience of playing music at a memorial service for a loved one. While we cannot physically play in these special places all the time, our imagination has the capacity to re-create them in our consciousness. Your own cultural heritage can contribute to passion. Playing for the 'mother country,' embracing the traditions of the Gypsies -- a people without a land to call their own -- and drawing on the history of your rich ancestry from many places throughout the world will help you to access passion in your heart and express it through your music.
Great teachers have the gift of being able to unlock the flood gates of expression with their pupils. Bonnie Hampton described her lessons with Margaret Rowell:
Musical partners have inspired passion. David Darling explained his special relationship with grammy award producer Manfred Eicher. Manfred had the unique ability to get David to go deeper into his soul and find his passion in his music. Carter Brey recalls the most passionate highlight of his career was inspired by a perfect combination of colleagues: The New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Zubin Mehta conducting, and Carter himself playing the cello part in Strauss' Don Quixote. These are only a few examples of the endless wealth of ideas that come from our cellist colleagues on how to integrate passion in our lives and music.
I find it amusing that we are told by teachers and colleagues that we need to play with 'emotion.' However, it wasn't until I really explored the value of having passion in my life and learned where to find it that I could integrate this into my bass playing. This is all about love and now I understand what Casals meant when he said that 'really understanding does not come from what we learn in books, but what we learn from love.
A famous Israeli critic known for destroying artists in his reviews once described one of Robert Cohen's performances of the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the words, Cohen is a musician of love. Robert felt this was an important comment, and showed the review to his agent, saying he had the feeling that for the first time in his life someone had written something about him that he really believed in. Interestingly enough, his agent didn't want to use this quote; he felt it was too soft, that people wouldn't take it seriously, that it might make them uncomfortable! And yet for Robert, it was probably the most important thing anybody could have said. He told me:
I feel this is what music is really about -- in the most serious terms , when music goes straight into your heart, and gives you a feeling that is beyond what you could feel at any other point.
Why not call this "passionate love"?
At first I thought DISCIPLINE was about playing fast and accurately, but world famous clarinetist Eddie Daniels convinced me that you can learn more about playing fast from experiencing the feeling of playing just one note. I call this chapter 'The Way of the Will.'
TOLERANCE is a chapter about 'The View from the Middle.' Who spends more arbitrating musical and personal conflicts than violists? Nokuthula Ngwenyama gives a colorful accounting of how violists receive great pleasure from their roles in the chamber group or the larger ensemble.
The chapter on CONFIDENCE is full of helpful techniques passed along by my jazz and classical trumpet colleagues. I learned something fascinating from Doc Severinsen. He explained to me that there are TWO kinds of confidence. The first kind is based on innocence or bravura. Real confidence is the confidence that's earned by good preparation.
Who would think that having FUN is one of the pathways to productivity? We explore the humor of Peter Schickele and P.D.Q. Bach, and bassist Gary Karr, who describes a rich strand of musical showmanship that extends back to the time of Paganini.
When it comes to CONCENTRATION, our solo instrumentalists for the violin, piano, guitar, and harp are the experts. Violinist Joshua Bell told me that he sometimes finds himself feeling nervous during the big orchestral introduction when he plays the Beethoven Violin Concerto, but then he moves into a state of serene concentration just as he is about to play.
Then we explore EGO and HUMILITY. Finding humility amongst singers may seem like looking for a needle in a haystack, but there is another side to this story. Soul singer superstar Nnenna Freelon shatters our concept of fame when she discusses self-esteem with inner city youth. Her interview inspired the chapter title: "From Fame to Artistry."
CREATIVITY is the last of our ten pathways. Responding to the voice within can truly be a journey into an artist's soul. Both composers and improvisational artists live in a world of constant discovery, where they listen for their inner direction and follow the insights it provides.
In the Finale (dedicated to INSPIRATION) we explore mentors, adversity, competition, and music as a forum in which to experience our growth as human beings. Inspiration is the engine that keeps us moving along the ten pathways, and drives us towards our continuing mastery of music.
Our journey, then, is to take a fresh look at these ten pathways to excellence, which can be found in the human spirit, and which I feel passionately can contribute to the mastery of music. This list begins with the ten pathways I have named, but it will continue through your own discovery of even more pathways to artistry. A true exploration of The Mastery of Music reveals that there is much more to learn than what appears on the surface. The process itself is endless, but within this journey lies all the marvels of discovery, spontaneity, guidance, and wisdom. What is most important is that we take up the challenge and grow and develop these qualities in our lives.
The late great master violinist Isaac Stern, in Life's Virtuoso, the documentary about him in the American Masters Series, said:
I have just returned from this four-year journey in search of an answer to the 'missing link' of this puzzling Inner Game demonstration with the singer. There are three disciplines that we all need to master: technique, concentration, and the spirit of the soul. We have made some major strides mastering the first two. Our music schools have done a great job in teaching us how to master our instruments (or voice). Inner Game principles and other similar disciplines have been helpful in assisting us to master our concentration. The third Mastery, however, is the one I invite you to begin with on this new journey. This has to do with who you are as a unique human being. We don't have to master all ten pathways, but we can begin to find those qualities within our soul that can be enriched and nourished, which have a way of manifesting in everything we do -- as musicians AND as people. These unique and highly-developed qualities that make up our human spirit will also make us better musicians. This is my promise to you.
The way to engage in this final level of mastery is to stay on the path and to keep searching, because searching for growth and knowledge to develop our inner self is the very same pathway that is taken by many great musicians. The answer lies within the spirit and the soul. It is a pathway not frequently traveled as a means to artistry, but it is something we can all learn and something we do to develop our uniqueness. It is not exclusive to the artists whom we admire, so it is the one thing we have that makes us all equal. We all have the capacity to grow and to learn from music, people, and life. We know that this is one of the great reasons to be alive.
THE MASTERY OF MUSIC will be published by Broadway Books, Amazon.com and available wherever books are sold from May 2003. ISBN: 0-7679-1156-3, Hardcover $24.95.
ABOUT BARRY GREEN:
Barry Green, a native Californian, served as Principal Bassist of the Cincinnati Symphony for 28 years. As former Executive Director of the International Society of Bassists, he is currently directing a young bassist program for the San Francisco Symphony Education Department, teaches privately at Stanley Intermediate in Lafayette and at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and has organized the Northern California Bass Club. He is Principal Bassist with the California Symphony and the Sun Valley Idaho Summer Symphony and active as a bass soloist and teacher.
Barry Green is author of the Doubleday book The Inner Game of Music, with W. Timothy Gallwey (1986), which deals with musicians reaching their potential in performance and learning, and has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide. Information about Green's workshops and personal appearances can be found on his web sites at:
http://www.innergameofmusic.com and http://www.themasteryofmusic.com.
He can be reached by e-mail: Barry Green.
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Editor: Tim Janof
Director: John Michel
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