Masterclasses & workshops

“Fingering must be honest”: An inconspicuously Schenkerian piano masterclass

In this performance workshop we reconstruct faded origins of Schenker’s interpretive practice to pursue a synthesis of interpretive and physiological concerns relevant to the artist’s work. Applying theory and techniques from field research in progress, we depart from an established school of contemporary thought that frames the art of performance, rather narrowly, as an “analytical communication.” More interested in the distant resonances of analysis and performance than any “correspondences,” we explore how the work’s subsurface structures serve as catalysts and oracles in the pianist’s creative process: as igniters of the imagination, amplifiers of the expressive range, guidelines for fingerings and arm motions, and reliable “litmus tests” for the coherent transmission of intended musical effects.

Workshop participants normally have at least two years of formal harmony training. Basic skills in thoroughbass realization would also come helpful, but no expertise in Schenker’s analytical technique is expected. Drawing inspiration from his own fragmentarily documented studio practice, we call forth his analytical metaphors and eloquent notation with minimal recourse to terminology, and only as warranted by the musical circumstances. In line with Schenker’s explicit pedagogic guidelines (Free Composition ¶49) we investigate interpretive ideas aurally, kinesthetically, and visually, alternating between the instrument and video-projected graphic analysis, some of it notated live from the piano bench on a digital tablet.

A technical summary is available on request.


Unraveling Chopin’s Etudes

During these sessions we consider how a confident grasp of the Etudes’ harmonic-contrapuntal structure blurs (but does not entirely eradicate) the distinction between the “interpretive” and the “technical.” With the Schenkerian diminution and reduction as primary tools of pianistic work, we reveal convergences of tonal design and ergonomic motion that help dismantle persistent difficulties, occasionally with the surprising facility of a slip-knot. Revisiting Schenker’s Saint Augustinian adage about free composition—“always the same but in a different way”—we explore universal principles unifying the uncountable variety of free pianistic motion.

Duration: 30–60mins per Etude.

Originally posted: 18 Apr 2019
Last updated: 10 Jun 2019