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.” Less interested in a prescriptive link between analysis with performance than in the outer limits of their metaphoric resonances, we explore how the work’s tonal structures may serve, literally behind the scenes, as “catalysts” and “oracles” of the creative process: as igniters of the imagination, amplifiers of the expressive range, guidelines for fingerings and arm motions, and as reliable “litmus tests” for the coherent conveyance of musical effects as intended.

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 of the audience or the performing student. Drawing inspiration from fragmentarily documented “conservatory Schenker” practices of historic import, 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

With the Schenkerian diminution and reduction as primary tools of pianistic work, in these sessions we consider how a confident grasp of the Etudes’ harmonic-contrapuntal structure blurs the distinction between the “interpretive” and the “technical,” revealing a convergence of tonal design and ergonomic motion that helps dismantle persistent difficulties, occasionally with the surprising facility of a slip-knot. Taking Schenker’s Saint Augustinian precept at its word—“always the same but in a different way”—we articulate both the deeper tonal plot of each Etude and unifying principles for the uncountable variety of free pianistic movement. The seminar is based on pre-publication material.

Duration: 60–90mins per Etude.

Originally posted: 18 Apr 2019
Last updated: 14 Nov 2018