Thursday, September 13, 2012

Perfect Isn't good enough

The following short essay was written shortly before the international competitions in Japan and Korea in 2007. It was targeted particularly for the Japanese participants of those competitions. RB

With the upcoming competitions and auditions in Japan, many players are diligently working to perfect their performance of the required repertoires. Of course, it must be perfect, but, of course, perfection only will not win the job or the competition; it may help to get them to the second round!

I am not aware of all the competitions and auditions in Japan but I know there are many; I do know that for tuba there is an upcoming orchestral audition with 82 contestants and a competition with 120 contestants. With a field of competitors of such high numbers and with many of these players playing perfectly, it seems very important to ask the question ‘what will the judges be listening for in a winner’? The answer, the simple answer, is musicianship; it’s the definition of musicianship that’s complicated.

The judges of the tuba competition very carefully chose a relatively easy work, but a very good work, for round 1, a work that almost everyone will play perfectly, because they want to hear the musicianship of the contestants. How do we define this “musicianship” the judges will be listening for? Is it dynamics and rhythmic energy? Maybe, but then what are dynamics and rhythmic energy? Printed western music doesn’t tell us everything and the very things it doesn’t tell us, are the very things that will probably win an audition or a competition.

Singers, string players and pianists are far more developed in their use of dynamics, rhythmic energy and rubato in their musicality, in their musical expression, their espressivo.

Espressivo, although not very technically demanding, needs to be studied and the best way to study the aspects of musicality is by listening; listening to singers, string players, pianists and, in fact, to anyone on any instrument you think is outstanding, then ask yourself  ‘how can I sound like that’?

There is a major lesson to be learned when we think of Mayuko Kamio, the Japanese Violinist who recently won the very prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia. Certainly, since all the violinists who played in this competition were perfect or at least nearly perfect, what were the qualities that made Mayuko Kamio a winner? The time has come when we wind instrument players must explore that question. The real musical community extends far beyond our particular instrument groups.

Tokyo, July 21, 2007

Revised September 14, 2012