Playfulness

One of the delightful aspects of sharing ideas is that others reciprocate in sharing. Today I received a YouTube link from a colleague that captured and encapsulated the essence of Johan Huizinga’s play elements of culture in Homo Ludens (1938).

The view we take in the following pages is that culture arises in the form of play, that it is played from the very beginning… Social life is endued with supra-biological forms, in the shape of play, which enhances its value.

On seeing the video my interests in music and performance coalesced around playing and playfulness. The video is from a project at the Odenplan station in Stockholm. (Much discussed earlier this month!) (Some Flickr Creative Commons’ images of Odenplan here.) Laurel Papworth’s has posted about this project and Fun Theory here.

Two other videos from the series, the Bottle bank Arcade and the World’s Deepest Bin can be found here.

Training to Perform: what athletes can learn from musicians

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Last night I was driving up to Sydney and listened to Amy Dickson’s arrangement for soprano saxophone of Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto. Her performance reminded me of a point made by Emma Ayres in her program about Amy’s practicing routines for circular breathing and her interview with Amy (11 September 2009).

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This NZ news item described Amy’s creative achievements:  Transcribing it (Philip Glass’ 1987 Violin Concerto) meant converting the soloist’s double-stopping into arpeggios, although there are “no more than 10 bars to do in the whole concerto”, she told the New Zealand Herald. “The most important thing was those endless notes that go on and on,” she says. “Which meant I had to learn circular breathing so I didn’t leave any of them out.” The result, said Herald reviewer William Dart, was that Dickson blended cunningly into the orchestra around her “creating the illusory textures ideal for minimalist music”.

This is the kind of dedication to which athletes aspire and coaches laud.

Elaine Page has some great observations about performance in her conversation with Margaret Throsby. I particularly liked her discussion of a performer’s access to video and the use that can be made of video.

Both musicians highlighted for me that our discussions of performance in sport and the evolution of a language about performance must be located in the performing arts.

The narratives we use for performance has been an interest of mine for since my time at Dartington College of Arts in the late 1980s.

Photo sources:

PicApp

Amy Dickson Twitter

Against the Odds: Alicia de Larrocha and Mercedes Sosa

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As sport explores and develops its understanding of performance, there are wonderful opportunities to enrich this understanding from a performing arts’ perspective.

In the last two weeks, two remarkable musicians have died. Their stories have significant resonance with those interested in the emergence of talented individuals and their long-term development pathway. They have a great deal to say about virtuosity and resilience against the odds too.

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Alicia de Larrocha died on 25 September 2009. The New York Times published an obituary here. This is her wikipedia entry. This an interview with the New York Times in 1995. Two items attracted my attention from these two New York Times’ pieces:

Ms. de Larrocha began to demand piano lessons when she was 3, after visiting her aunt as she taught students. At the keyboard on her own, Ms. de Larrocha imitated what she had seen her aunt’s students do, and impressed her aunt sufficiently that she took Ms. de Larrocha to Marshall. He was less encouraging. He said it was too early to start lessons, and suggested that Ms. de Larrocha be kept away from the piano. Ms. de Larrocha said that once her aunt locked the instrument, she banged her head on the floor until Marshall relented and began to teach her. (2009)

To generate auditorium-filling sound, she used to set the piano bench as high as it would go, the opposite of low-benchers like Glenn Gould. “I used to play with all my strength from my shoulders and my back,” she said, “so I had to be higher.” But her arms are so short that when the music called for her to go from one end of the keyboard to the other, she had to twist sharply; she ended up almost facing the audience. In recent years she has taught herself to sit closer to the keyboard, minimizing the extremes of movement. (1995)

This is Part 1 of a YouTube video of Alicia de Larrocha and Michael Tilson Thomas discussing Beethoven Piano Concerto No 1 and this is Part 2.

Mercedes Sosa died less than two weeks later on 4 October 2009. This is her wikipedia entry. She was recognised as a leader of the La Nueva Canción movement. This is some brief background information and this is her website. This is a YouTube video of her rendition of Gracias a La Vida.

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In 2001 Mercedes Sosa observed that “I’ve got my voice and the soul that comes out in my voice.”  Throughout her career she was viewed as the voice of the silent majority.

Photo Sources

Sydney Cricket Ground 1895

Screen grabs of Alicia de Larrocha and Mercedes Sosa.