FAQ Conducting Classes

What does it mean if it is “expected to know the composition by heart”

“To know a composition by heart does not mean that one has to memorize the piece intellectually on a material level – no one will be tested and no one is expected to write the composition down as if notes are the equivalent to memorized vocabulary.
However, everyone should know a composition by heart in such a way that one can at all times consciously relate to the over all form of the piece. It is clear that one’s ability to freely interact with the orchestra increases the more one is able to detach from the score. How else would a free musical experience, spontaneous hearing and acting, and a truly alive contact with the orchestra be possible if the composition is not known and the score not studied? The better one is prepared in this regard the more one can gain and achieve through the work with the orchestra – one should really be aware of this! For some conductors who are less experienced it can be helpful to only focus on self selected parts of the program so that these parts can be studied and prepared with much greater detail and intensity. To conduct by memory does not necessarily mean to conduct without a score. Any conductor can use the score on the podium – this is not the core question – however, it is of utmost importance to thoroughly know the piece on an internalized level. For the accompaniment of the soloist in the cello concerto it is actually necessary to follow along by reading the score.”

What happens in stage I and II

Answer: “How can musical ideas and intentions be applied to an orchestra? In part I we will work on the musical possibilities as they appear in the phenomenological context. With examples that can be consciously experienced and with specific exercises we will gradually develop an understanding of phenomenological principles and their application to music. In simple terms, the core question in a phenomenology of music is how can I allow sound to work within and on me? The question is not anymore what I can do with sound. What are the principle laws of sound and how do they impact me? It is impossible to answer these questions theoretically – they can only be approached through the actual musical experience. The laws of sound lack any ambiguity, they are clear and hence, they are not dependent on any “interpretation”. I can either become aware of these laws or I can ignore them. If I become aware of these laws, I will naturally attempt to communicate all relationships and proportions that constitute these laws to the orchestra through my conducting. In this way, the musician is inspired and motivated to realize these very same relationships and proportions musically. The so called technique of functional conducting is the core tool with which a conductor approaches music in a phenomenological manner. Functional conducting is based on the natural weight of the free arm. This is as simple as it sounds. There are conductors that use this technique instinctively but there is no school or outlined methodology that teaches this technique. With very basic exercises we can consciously experience the laws of sound as they are tied to what we actually hear. In the beginning, we will use a piano; later, we will work with a string quartet. Intentionally, no generic theory will be created for the second week that could possibly become a burden or limitation. In front of the orchestra, one can only work with those tools and aspects that are given and that consciously appear in the present moment. Each conductor can experiment and learn how the technical tools studied in part I can be applied to the orchestra – in other words, each conductor can then experience the orchestra as a mirror of one’s own gestures. Each active participant can work at least 30 minutes with the orchestra each day. These are excellent conditions, especially since the orchestra will already know the pieces that are being used for  the course. Consequently, the actual musical work can begin right away. Of the 5 pieces each participant should have at least 3 pieces fully prepared and studied.”

Why is there no final concert?

Answer: “Intentionally, the course will not end with a concert. Everyone should use the given time, energy, and courage to work with a new awareness and attentiveness. One has a direct chance to focus on the application of the newly gained phenomenological understanding of the musical happening. Naturally, the results will further grow and develop.This mode of working represents a rare adventure which would be limited if the course ended with a formal concert.”

You are welcome to ask further questions.