Brenda’s Blog – November 15, 2016
“Playing the small notes is optional.”
As I prepared to play at a local church service I went through a number of piano hymn arrangements. For me this is like trying on clothes. I go through dozens of pieces until one “just feels right.”
The one I selected had the right balance of dynamics, technical requirements, and emotional impact. One of the attractive elements for the chosen arrangement was the “accessories.” The melody was enhanced by runs of notes which added brilliance without losing the melody (and the hearer) in the weeds of excessive flash.
There is a fine balance between raising the emotional level through exciting bursts of runs and overwhelming the melody and message. Some arrangers think more is more and create a work that looks like a woman who totally overdoes makeup and accessories.
In life we have opportunities to create impact with the way we communicate with others. Some choose to pour on the style, putting the message in the shadows. “What did they say?” is usually the response. Others avoid any enhancement and beat the basic subject to death. “Where is the back door?” is usually the response.
We have the option of adding the zest. But it is up to us to understand how best to use gestures, phrases, humor, and eye contact as a means of moving the message, not overshadowing it. Musicians (instrumental or vocal) know when to go for the big finish and when to leave well enough alone.
Appropriateness is the critical element. Having the ability to understand each situation and judge what needs to be added or deleted is the sign of maturity. Just because you can play the small notes doesn’t mean you are required to. Just because you are verbally nimble doesn’t mean you have to use every technique at your disposal.
When we communicate whether in music, writing, or speaking we must always remember as Dad liked to say: “Speak (write, play) to express, not impress.”