When most people think of creativity in music, their mind goes automatically to the exciting but often intimidating realms of IMPROVISATION and COMPOSITION.
Here is an alternative, deeply creative approach accessible to even musicians with classical backgrounds and limited creativity training.
Traditionally, one of the most important goals for classical performers involves a meaningful yet prescriptive process called A.P.P.
Authentic Performance Practice (A.P.P.)
Honor intentions of composer/printed music,
playing “right” notes, rhythms, dynamics, articulations, timbre, and form
in stylistically appropriate ways.
As an educator and performing artist, I’ve spent literally thousands of hours pursuing this reconstructive approach, and benefited immensely from doing so. This practice emphasizes many important goals: attention to detail, stylistic consistency, pursuit of excellence, etc.
But it is only one way to experience music making.
An alternative—achieving different outcomes—involves a method described in a term I coined, called C.P.P.
Creative Performance Practice (C.P.P.)
Using written music as a foundation,
alter notes, rhythms, dynamics, articulations, timbre and/or form as necessary
to build highly personalized statements.
This unconventional approach empowers performers to make PERSONALIZED CHOICES.
What CUSTOMIZED decisions distinguish YOUR version from all others?
Imagine if I were invited to live in the HOUSE of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
How cool would that be?!?! He’s one of my personal heroes. I would cherish its history and honor the foundation, carefully preserving notable features of antiquity.
But it is possible to live life today while respecting the path that led us here. I would also UPDATE and PERSONALIZE. I’d add electricity, plumbing, washing machine, Netflix, smartphone, Peloton. (OK, I would most definitely not add a Peloton. Just seeing if you are paying attention.)
It’s not like Bach despised these things—they simply didn’t exist back in the Baroque. Had they, you can bet he would have been an early adopter.
C.P.P. embraces this kind of thinking. Creative visioning becomes a joint effort of sorts between composer (dead or alive..) and performer (hopefully living!).
I regularly employ C.P.P. in my own playing, particularly with classical music that has been performed extensively. After all, why should I devote life energy to indistinguishable performance someone else could do comparably?
The point is never to be different for the sake of being weird. Instead, I wrestle with the score, asking:
"What does this music want to be when it grows up?
And also this:
"What does this music need from ME?"
I become a detective, actively seeking clues that others have missed. Experimentation ensues, with the goal of making it bigger yet. More meaningful yet. More shocking yet. More beautiful yet.
Sometimes C.P.P. involves amplifying a composer's original intent (e.g. make a scherzo funnier/a rhapsody more passionate). Alternatively, it can involve profoundly unique exploration, catapulting structures into unexpected terrain.
Throughout the creative process, it's just me and the manuscript, melding our souls. If successful:
I will change the music.
And the music will change me.
Nothing less will do.
I often advocate C.P.P. when working with other classically trained musicians. This includes players of all levels, from beginners through professionals.
For example, that unfamiliar paradigm was proposed to violinist Rebecca Hunter when developing melody interpretations for my composition SUPERNOVA. This work features recompositions of all 17 tunes from Suzuki Violin School, Volume 1, the most popular beginning string method book in the world.
I invited her to reimagine tunes she’d taught thousands of times as highly differentiated statements.
While much flexibility was permitted, one rule remained steadfast:
Notes and rhythms should not be altered (much).
Anything else, however, was fair game. As the muse hit, she had permission to:
Augment with DOUBLE STOPS
Without changing a single note or rhythm, Rebecca turned these simple melodies into virtuosic etudes that pushed her technique and musicality in all sorts of unexpected directions.
The process was challenging, eye opening, and liberating. Not to mention a ton of FUN!
If you listen to authentic Suzuki melodies next to Rebecca's SuperNova renditions, two truths become immediately self-evidently.
This performance is deeply informed by the COMPOSER.
This performance is profoundly unique to the PERFORMER.
Call it COLLABORATION.
Call it THE COMPLETE CREATIVE PROCESS.
Call it ART.
In the previous example, a performer was given permission to experiment by the composer. But that is not necessary. C.P.P. can be applied to any music you play.
I've created an entire eCourse on the topic. It is geared towards string players, but the concepts presented are universal and transferable.
I invite you to take a look if you're intrigued by the concept.
There is enormous benefit to pursuing Authentic Performance Practice.
Doing so celebrates the CREATIVE GENIUS of great composers who changed the world. Musical product can be spectacular, and the recreation process itself is invaluable. I couldn't imagine a musical life devoid of this approach.
But I also cannot fathom an artistic existence lacking deeply unique, personalized decision making, at least from time to time.
Why would anyone sacrifice the nectar that makes music making oh so sweet?
Creative Performance Practice offers a path for doing just that.
And we wouldn't want to overlook a creative genius standing right in this room:
And your STUDENTS.
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