Friday, January 22, 2016

Rhythmically Accurate vs.Accurately Placed - NOTE GROUPING

In my recent post, Rhythmically Accurate vs Accurately Placed, I discuss the tension between metronomic accuracy in music and playing with a true musical inflection. Shortly after that post was published, I received a comment from a reader asking if I was speaking about the concept presented in Note Grouping by James Thurmond. I was not familiar with that publication and immediately purchased a copy which arrived at my home just a few days ago. Today, with bad weather in North Carolina and the rest of the East Coast, I had some time to dig into the book. Let me say that I am very excited to add the information in this book to my knowledge base, and, yes, in fact this is exactly what I've been talking about.

In Note Grouping, Professor Thurmond, of Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, details his method for achieving expression and style in musical performance. He outlines the inherent relationship between speech and music , movement and music , motifs and phrasing , strong and weak beats, and then goes on to explain his theory of note grouping and applications . I am about half way through the book this morning and I'm already finding numerous direct applications to my teaching of this concept, conducting, and, to be honest, many other pedagogical areas.

Those of you that read my blog regularly know that I have posted many times about the need for a more concentrated emphasis on movement in the orchestra as a means to overall meaningful expression. I also draw parallels between speech, fluency, literacy, and music on an almost daily basis in my classes and throughout my teaching.  And, I frequently discuss the necessity of strong systems in pedagogy, which this book clearly outlines for note grouping. 

Ironically, I spent the first six years of my professional teaching career in Palmyra School District in Central Pennsylvania. Lebanon Valley College, where Professor Thurmond taught, is located in Annville, Pennsylvania, only a short 10 minute drive from my apartment back in the 1980s. I served as a member of and eventually Concert master of the Lebanon Valley College Orchestra for a couple of years in the late 1980s and early 1990s under the direction of Dr. Klement Hambourg and had a wonderful relationship with him and that institution. Sadly, I do not recall Dr. Thurmond, nor do I believe we ever met. I'm not sure if the concepts outlined in his book would have spoken to me at that point in my career in the same way that they do today. Isn't it interesting how our interests and insights change with experience and maturity? In those days, I was focused on the basics of string pedagogy and recruitment and development of a school orchestra program that was in need of a rebuild during my years there. It really is only in recent years that I have begun to think deeply about this connection between expression and accuracy in playing. It really has been a result of noticing trends while working with young musicians over a period of many years in many settings.

So, this morning, I simply recommend this little book strongly to all music educators that are interested in developing musicians and ensembles that are able to fully achieve musical expression and style.  And, I will continue to digest its contents and react here in my blog.

The book is available on Amazon for about $18 and is worth every penny. It is published by Meredith music and Hal Leonard Publishing the forward is written by noted Music Educator, Weston Noble of Luther College. The book also includes an exceptional glossary of terms and recommended recordings. So, on this wintery January day, I recommend you use up some of those Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift cards that you received from students over the holidays and pick up your own copy of this wonderful resource. I am sure there is much more to come on this topic.



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