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The Role of Virtuosity in Progressive Music

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moshkito View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 27 2013 at 10:03
Originally posted by presdoug presdoug wrote:

I disagree that classical flute players do not play with Expression and feeling, listen to Anton Bruckner's stirring 7th Symphony, and the first two movements alone have flute soloing that is so full of feeling and expression, it's unreal. That is, unreal under the right classical flautist. Two that come to mind that are full of expression and feeling are the Principal Flautist of the Boston Symphony during the 50s-70s-don't know her name, but have heard her play, and it is something! The other is Claude Monteux, son of the venerable Maestro Pierre Monteux, again, full of feeling and expression.
      Another thing i disagree with is what you said about Ian's playing, it is sometimes just as complex and intricate as classical music players.
There are some differences ... for example, I had the opportunity to hear a bootleg of a jazz saxophone and flute player making a famous flautist sound like a turkey ... and this was at the Hollywood Bowl! The classical player lacked skills relating to free form and experimentation, because he was trained in the rigidity of the "composed" music ... while I probably could say, and it might be fair to say as well, that he lacked the discipline that the classical player had ... which was cleverly disguised as feeling and emotion ... as is ALWAYS well done in jazz ... and rock music as well!
 
That makes it harder to pair up the two, unless there is a really good and fun rapport between the two ... and in this case there was ... one buffoon couldn't keep up ... it was that simple!
 
The main difference is that one is "too composed" and "too controlled", and the other is more open to interpretation, change and ideas that are not "written down" ... and this tends to BLUR the line in virtuosity from here to Pluto and back! A lot of the rock music and jazz music is less composed and played, specially in the solos ... if Clapton has to play that solo one more time just like all the others, he probably will quit the music business forever!
 
Gotta remember that you and I and many of us here are totally spoiled ... we have heard such incredible variations and experimentations and new compositions, that make a Ravel, and many other composers, look like school kids these days ...


Edited by moshkito - February 27 2013 at 10:09
... none of the hits, none of the time ... you might actually find your own art, or self, instead of paying for a guru or church or social program!



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dean Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 27 2013 at 12:51
^ wellllllll..... nearly. Improvisation has been a major part of Classical music since the Medieval era and virtuosity in improvisation was a highly regarded skill - Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #3 2nd movement is partially improvised. The thing that stopped improvisation in classical music was recording - once someone had recorded the definitive version of a piece everyone else just copied their improvisation.




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote presdoug Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 27 2013 at 13:32
I am very much into conductors, and how they can inspire a classical musician, flute player or otherwise. When a great conductor motivates and inspires a classical flutist to play "beyond the notes", then the music, even it is not improvised, almost sounds like it is anyway. For example, conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler strove in every performance, to realise a work like it was being played for the first time. Listen to Furtwangler do Beethoven or Bruckner, and there is nothing "too controlled or composed" about it. It is thrilling. Now, a lot of conductors don't have that capability, but some did. People like Toscanini and Furtwangler took that "too controlled or composed" stereotype in classical music, and without changing the notes, went beyond the notes to make inspiring classical music.
"and what music unites, man should not take apart"--Helmut Koellen                               
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tapfret Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 27 2013 at 15:03
Igor Stravinsky, one of the most technical composer of all time, made a statement that encapsulates my position regarding the misconception that virtuosity/technicality is of detriment to emotion.

"I have not understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it."
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DiamondDog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 28 2013 at 03:42
Originally posted by Gerinski Gerinski wrote:

I respect speed ability but it's so far off the purpose, I guess that Steve Hackett or even Steve Vai must laugh out loud at things like this




Alvin Lee always had this (dubious) reputation; speed is no reflection of quality. Personally, I think Alvin had both, but only on twelve bar solos. Albert Lee, with his fast-picking style,  must be another contender, though I shouldn't pander to the speed trap.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Progosopher Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 28 2013 at 19:56
I saw a video on Youtube of the guy who has the world record for fastest guitar picking (sorry, luddite here, no link) and he openly said his ability had no musical value.  Speed is a sign of virtuosity only if the performer is playing something substantial in the first place.  But one must start slow to maintain the necessary precision of a fast part.  We can't start as Di Meolas, Holdsworths, Fripps, or Lanes.  Even those guys practiced their arses off to get where they are, and they still have to keep in practice to maintain it.
The world of sound is certainly capable of infinite variety and, were our sense developed, of infinite extensions. -- George Santayana, "The Sense of Beauty"
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote cstack3 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 28 2013 at 21:23
God, are those speed-shredders annoying!!   I'm very high on the young guys from the US band "Scale the Summit," these are some very tasty guitar parts!  

Often, virtuosity is what is NOT played!  These guys have a new CD coming out, I look forward to it!  




Edited by cstack3 - February 28 2013 at 21:28
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ambient Hurricanes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 28 2013 at 23:08
Originally posted by Gerinski Gerinski wrote:

The hunch that many of the guys and ladies we call virtuosos in the rock world are possibly seen as not much more than simply decent musicians by good classically trained musicians (e.g. those playing with respected orchestras, and not limiting to instrumentalists but including also composers) is always lurking in these discussions.

Besides the purely technical instrumentalist skill level, knowledge of theory etc, many classically-oriented people remark that a lot of renowned rock musicians would be lost without the figure of the producer who is the one converting their 'half-baked amateur-level ideas and limited understanding of sound' into music worth listening to. Classical orchestras made of competent musicians do not need a producer to sound good (they may need a sound engineer to adapt to the venue characteristics or to master the recording process but that's not in the same sense, rock bands can really take radically different sounds depending on the producer).

Personally I'm not so harsh and I prefer to see it as comparing apples with oranges, with classical musicians virtuosity focusing more on consistently precise execution, while rock musicians are allowed to showcase talents which classical musicians have often inhibited (that's not saying that improvisation does not exist in classical music, it certainly does for the soloists).

What are your thoughts on the subject?




Those classically trained musicians are probably right about most renowned rock musicians.  They're dead wrong about all the other rock musicians who aren't famous but are actually good at what they do.

I agree with you that it's apples and oranges, but at the same time there are rock guitarists out there who can excel in "academic" (as much as I hate to use that term) styles, too.  Even the guitarists in Avenged Sevenfold (a band whom I loathe) have jazz degrees, for crying out loud.  No classical musician is going to convince me that John Petrucci or Steve Howe or Robert Fripp can't hold their own up against classical/jazz artists.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 01 2013 at 00:15
Originally posted by cstack3 cstack3 wrote:

These guys have a new CD coming out, I look forward to it!  


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DiamondDog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 01 2013 at 06:06
Originally posted by Ambient Hurricanes Ambient Hurricanes wrote:

Originally posted by Gerinski Gerinski wrote:

The hunch that many of the guys and ladies we call virtuosos in the rock world are possibly seen as not much more than simply decent musicians by good classically trained musicians (e.g. those playing with respected orchestras, and not limiting to instrumentalists but including also composers) is always lurking in these discussions.

Besides the purely technical instrumentalist skill level, knowledge of theory etc, many classically-oriented people remark that a lot of renowned rock musicians would be lost without the figure of the producer who is the one converting their 'half-baked amateur-level ideas and limited understanding of sound' into music worth listening to. Classical orchestras made of competent musicians do not need a producer to sound good (they may need a sound engineer to adapt to the venue characteristics or to master the recording process but that's not in the same sense, rock bands can really take radically different sounds depending on the producer).

Personally I'm not so harsh and I prefer to see it as comparing apples with oranges, with classical musicians virtuosity focusing more on consistently precise execution, while rock musicians are allowed to showcase talents which classical musicians have often inhibited (that's not saying that improvisation does not exist in classical music, it certainly does for the soloists).

What are your thoughts on the subject?





Those classically trained musicians are probably right about most renowned rock musicians.  They're dead wrong about all the other rock musicians who aren't famous but are actually good at what they do.

I agree with you that it's apples and oranges, but at the same time there are rock guitarists out there who can excel in "academic" (as much as I hate to use that term) styles, too.  Even the guitarists in Avenged Sevenfold (a band whom I loathe) have jazz degrees, for crying out loud.  No classical musician is going to convince me that John Petrucci or Steve Howe or Robert Fripp can't hold their own up against classical/jazz artists.

I'm with the apples and oranges theory. I doubt very much if those classical musicians could cut it in a Rock band context. Much of classical is learning to play a piece methodically from reading the music; it often requires great or very good technique, but any talented rock musician could do the same (assuming he/she could read music, which is, after all, only an information system). The Rock musician, therefore, can transcend the two genres. I'm not so sure that many classical musicians could survive beyond their own comfort zone.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dean Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 01 2013 at 06:14
Originally posted by DiamondDog DiamondDog wrote:

Originally posted by Ambient Hurricanes Ambient Hurricanes wrote:

Originally posted by Gerinski Gerinski wrote:

The hunch that many of the guys and ladies we call virtuosos in the rock world are possibly seen as not much more than simply decent musicians by good classically trained musicians (e.g. those playing with respected orchestras, and not limiting to instrumentalists but including also composers) is always lurking in these discussions.

Besides the purely technical instrumentalist skill level, knowledge of theory etc, many classically-oriented people remark that a lot of renowned rock musicians would be lost without the figure of the producer who is the one converting their 'half-baked amateur-level ideas and limited understanding of sound' into music worth listening to. Classical orchestras made of competent musicians do not need a producer to sound good (they may need a sound engineer to adapt to the venue characteristics or to master the recording process but that's not in the same sense, rock bands can really take radically different sounds depending on the producer).

Personally I'm not so harsh and I prefer to see it as comparing apples with oranges, with classical musicians virtuosity focusing more on consistently precise execution, while rock musicians are allowed to showcase talents which classical musicians have often inhibited (that's not saying that improvisation does not exist in classical music, it certainly does for the soloists).

What are your thoughts on the subject?





Those classically trained musicians are probably right about most renowned rock musicians.  They're dead wrong about all the other rock musicians who aren't famous but are actually good at what they do.

I agree with you that it's apples and oranges, but at the same time there are rock guitarists out there who can excel in "academic" (as much as I hate to use that term) styles, too.  Even the guitarists in Avenged Sevenfold (a band whom I loathe) have jazz degrees, for crying out loud.  No classical musician is going to convince me that John Petrucci or Steve Howe or Robert Fripp can't hold their own up against classical/jazz artists.

I'm with the apples and oranges theory. I doubt very much if those classical musicians could cut it in a Rock band context. Much of classical is learning to play a piece methodically from reading the music; it often requires great or very good technique, but any talented rock musician could do the same (assuming he/she could read music, which is, after all, only an information system). The Rock musician, therefore, can transcend the two genres. I'm not so sure that many classical musicians could survive beyond their own comfort zone.
I think you have that back-to-front. Many classical musicians are also members of jazz bands, if they can do jazz they can do rock. I'm not convinced your average rock musican could cut it in an classical orchestra.




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TODDLER Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 01 2013 at 07:39
I second that. All the devotion, time ..I put in to Classical study with my father/teacher caused any of my friends to cringe and as a whole , when growing up, most teenagers found that devotion to be a sign of mental illness. I was sleeping just a few hours a night, never went on a date with a girl, stayed away from drugs, and the bulk of society considered me a misfit, freak, or candidate for psychiatric treatment..but! at age 18, when I was asked by a prog cover band to learn Steve Howe's Mood For A Day you wouldn't believe how elementary it truly was. Prog was fairly simple to play after playing the most complex Bach or Paganini pieces. Black coffee, breathing techniques and an intake of a thousand calories a day was a mental denial of the human needs around me as a child/teenager. After many years of Classical study I added reflections of Classical to my own creations..which was what Anthony Phillips and Steve Hackett did. My right hand was very natural and easily fell into place. I didn't get into music college and chose the wrong path, working for entertainers on the celebrity circuits..however my long and hard devotion of Classical developed me into a schooled player of Jazz/fusion, rock, prog, and even folk. Based on my experiences for decades , I must agree with Dean that the average rock playercould not cut it with a classical orchestra. Also take into account that classical guitar is and never has been accepted by an orchestra, was, and possibly still is, looked down upon by the orchestra. I still lived in the classical world and was overly prepared for music college. It's basically a devoted situation where the musician must give up their entire life of practical living to be outstanding and exceptional. Like monks who fast , it takes a great will to continue a path that is sometimes like a razor's edge.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote presdoug Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 01 2013 at 09:20
^Interesting post, thanks, Johnny
     From a young age, i wanted to become a musician, but at age 11, developed permanent tremors in both hands. It is impossible, for example,for me to write with a pen (i have to print), and it is precarious to even drink a cup of liquid (completely impossible with my left hand)
So musical instruments are unfortunately not for me.

Edited by presdoug - March 01 2013 at 09:27
"and what music unites, man should not take apart"--Helmut Koellen                               
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TODDLER Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 01 2013 at 09:31
Originally posted by presdoug presdoug wrote:

^Interesting post, thanks, Johnny
     From a young age, i wanted to become a musician, but at age 11, developed permanent tremors in both hands. It is impossible, for example,for me to write with a pen (i have to print), and it is precarious to even drink a cup of liquid (completely impossible with my left hand)
So musical instruments are unfortunately not for me.
 
I am so sorry for your misfortune.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DiamondDog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 01 2013 at 10:17
Disagree entirely with it being said that if you can play jazz you can play rock. Most jazz musicians are too soft in approach and lacking in many respects. Jazz, though ideal for improvisation of a free nature, seldom contains the dynamic qualities natural to a talented rock musician. Also doubt that many classical musicians are good at even playing jazz, certainly not the majority by any means. As well as that, classical musicians, as I said, have to follow a set piece and repeat it ad infinitum. Any talented person can learn a piece, however difficult it is. I don't believe your average classical musician could live in even a reasonable rock band without a long time learning his new set piece.

Of course, these are generalities. There will always be exceptions, but they are not the norm at all.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dean Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 01 2013 at 10:56
Originally posted by DiamondDog DiamondDog wrote:

Disagree entirely with it being said that if you can play jazz you can play rock. Most jazz musicians are too soft in approach and lacking in many respects. Jazz, though ideal for improvisation of a free nature, seldom contains the dynamic qualities natural to a talented rock musician. Also doubt that many classical musicians are good at even playing jazz, certainly not the majority by any means. As well as that, classical musicians, as I said, have to follow a set piece and repeat it ad infinitum. Any talented person can learn a piece, however difficult it is. I don't believe your average classical musician could live in even a reasonable rock band without a long time learning his new set piece.

Of course, these are generalities. There will always be exceptions, but they are not the norm at all.
I don't accept your reasoning here. Classical musicians are not robots, they do like to let their hair down and have fun - when they do that the main music they go for is jazz because it generally suits the instrument they play - it's easier to vamp it up on a clarinet playing jazz than it is playing rock. That said, all academically trained classical musicians (in the UK at least) have to learn a second instrument in addition to their weapon of choice so even a clarinet player can knock out a tune on a keyboard or some other instrument more suited to rock music.
 
Last September the head of music at our local college passed away at a relatively young age, his students past and present organised an evening of music in his honour - the evening's programme consisted of a wide selection of classical, jazz, folk and rock music with the same musicians playing several different genres of music through the course of the concert. Many of our Jazz Youth Orchestras are affiliated to the Youth Orchestras in their local area with many of the young musicians appearing in both. The link between jazz and classical music is pretty strong in the UK.
 
From my time as a band manager I was always surprised by how quickly new band members and temporary touring musicians could pick-up our set list and hit the ground running, also several of our band did sessions work and guested with other bands, again picking up the other band's music very quickly. In auditions we would expect people to be able to play the music we'd provided them prior to the audition (often from a badly recorded tape or CDR - we were not a covers band), and we were seldom disappointed or let down by rock musicians who failed to learn a piece. No matter how difficult you think rock music is, it does not take a long time to learn new set pieces.
 




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DiamondDog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 01 2013 at 11:15
Sounds like you had a good or exceptional group of musicians here; I don't accept at all that this is the norm. I doubt that your average classical musician could even back a group of singers from the floor of a pub, for one thing, being essentially taught and formulaic musicians, they don't often have the ear for it (actually a very difficult and specialist job that couldn't be done by many rock musicians, never mind classicists!). My point was it doesn't take anyone talented long to learn a set piece of music in terms of notes at least. The delivery and nuance of those notes is another matter entirely. Even rock musicians get away with a lot because recording a piece in a studio bears little relation to performing it live. Recording is like a living-room kind of playing; live requires response to acoustics and dynamics, especially in rock. I still say that although rock musicians may well struggle in an orchestra, orchestral musicians would struggle in a rock group, only getting by if someone wrote out the parts for them and generally weaned them till they reached a reasonable standard. I doubt even then that they would ever excel.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote freyacat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 01 2013 at 11:25
When I was in my 20's, it was very important to me to show off how I was listening to the "best guitarist," the "best drummer," and the "best keyboardist."
 
It's interesting that young males never have the same argument about being the best composer, or the best producer, or the best lyricist.  These things provide a less apt metaphor for a phallus.
 
Notes played quickly and accurately are wonderful, provided that they are the right notes, played at the right time, in service of the right song, in harmony with one's musical companions.
 
I still rejoice at the wonderful ability of Robert Fripp, Neal Peart, Keith Emerson, and others, but it is because those abilities are used in the right way, with the right people, for the right reasons, that we celebrate their greatness.  There are many more musicians (particularly in the field of Prog Metal) who play faster and with deadly accuracy, and in spite of this, the music is soulless and without purpose.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dean Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 01 2013 at 11:56
Originally posted by DiamondDog DiamondDog wrote:

Sounds like you had a good or exceptional group of musicians here; I don't accept at all that this is the norm. I doubt that your average classical musician could even back a group of singers from the floor of a pub, for one thing, being essentially taught and formulaic musicians, they don't often have the ear for it (actually a very difficult and specialist job that couldn't be done by many rock musicians, never mind classicists!). My point was it doesn't take anyone talented long to learn a set piece of music in terms of notes at least. The delivery and nuance of those notes is another matter entirely. Even rock musicians get away with a lot because recording a piece in a studio bears little relation to performing it live. Recording is like a living-room kind of playing; live requires response to acoustics and dynamics, especially in rock. I still say that although rock musicians may well struggle in an orchestra, orchestral musicians would struggle in a rock group, only getting by if someone wrote out the parts for them and generally weaned them till they reached a reasonable standard. I doubt even then that they would ever excel.
Unless you give some more specific examples I can only disagree with you. Orchestra musicians are not limited by training as you are suggesting they are - yes they have to play on the staves when playing in an orchestra, but they are also trained in composition and improvisation (that is part of the Music Grade system from [I believe] Grade 5 onwards). If, by way of simplistic example, they cannot improvise or compose a pentatonic solo over a relatively simple chord progression (in comparison to classical music) or jam along to a 12 or 16-bar blues framework then I would be extremely surprised, and if they cannot do that with some nuance of feeling and with an atuned ear then my flabber would be royally gasted...
 
Yes, we did attract some good musicians but since they were pooled from a relatively small local area I cannot honestly say they were exceptional.
 




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DiamondDog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 01 2013 at 13:13
It's fine to disagree, I disagree with your analysis too. That kind of improvisation does not help those musicians deal with anything other than that specific situation, ie, they are still 'improvising' over a piece and genre they are, if anything, over-familiar with, and it is a particular kind of solo they would play, in full and prior knowledge of how the piece is structured. That does not in any way prepare them for forms and approaches that are alien to them. Now, as you argue, it could be said that this can also work the other way round, but that surely is what is meant by "apples and oranges". 


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