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Learning from Eric Ericson V - Conducting Technique II

This continues my notes from several sessions on conducting by Eric Ericson done for the Haystack Workshop in Oregon.
 
Ericson - Day 2
1) “caress” the air as if through water, then make attacks (not in a pattern) gradually more marked , then back to caressing motion - check to see that your shoulder muscles stay relaxed as you beat more marcato
 
2) he then does other exercises to show changes in the size of the beat:
  • 5/8
  • 7/8
  • 6/8
3) more exercises for "co-ordination of opposites" conduct 3 (3/4), but count 2 (6/8)
("now walk around - not in tempo - just gentle")
 
4) conduct 2 (6/8) count 3 (3/4)
 
5) do both exercises 3 and 4, counting legatissimo, beating marcato (and vice versa)
 
6) more exercises for left hand independence:
  • 4/4 giving cues
  • one conductor is in front of class, conducts 4, cues with l.h. at his or her choice - group responds with “bop” ( if short), "bah" (if conductor indicates long)
(E. says you could also try to cue one side of the chorus with a nod from the head , the other with the l.h.)
 
7) E. improvises, asks everyone to change character with the music
then speeds up, asks to go into 2, slows back down, go into 4 again - "lighter ... heavy ... marcato ... leggiero ... light with your faces ... darker again"
 
8) Conduct hemiolas
 
9) plays Bach “Der Geisthilft” (one of the rep pieces) while we conduct
 
10) Then we conduct in 3 while he plays a minuet, then a Swedish “Hambo” (which has a very heavy downbeat), then in 1 a Kreisler waltz.
 
11) "try to give a preparatory beat with just your breathing . . . try it different ways ... feel the difference in the quality of sound . .. remember to give a deep breath with your preparations, use time (but not too quick)"
 
Day 3
 
reminders about posture
 
1) “take a breath, hum on ‘m’ . . . deeper breath ... move your head a little ... lift your arms as you breathe ... relax, no strange things, very natural ... do it again, but prepare from diaphragm
... now do it the wrong way"
 
2) conduct a small , but intense 4, while the left hand is out in front , still
 
3) count 2, conduct 4 (and vice versa); then do same counting 2, conducting 6; counting one, conducting 3 (more of “exercise in opposites”
"move around"
 
4) more of the cueing exercise from previous day:
"right hand very intense ... l.h. stop dead with cue"
 
5) plays while alternating 6/8s (in two and six) and 3/4 - calls out changes while playing
 
“make the beat bigger . . .  smaller"
 
6) conduct 3, count 2 (3 vs. 2)
"move around ... move your left hand freely, out of tempo ... pick up imaginary music"
same, conduct 2 , count 3
 
7) Conduct 12/8 while E. plays:
"swinging beats, friction against the air"
"it's like playing the violin: too much tension (bow against the string)= scratchy sound , too little tension= airy sound - get just the right tension)"
 
8) E wants the sound to be characterized in the body as a whole "be friends with your body"
 
9) uses 12/8 for a sense of flow from beat to beat - E. improvises as we conduct: he starts with jazz -  then moves into the opening chorus from the St. Matthew Passion - impressionistic - jazz again - then “heavier, darker”
 
10) conduct fast , small 4 with r.h. only:
"emphasize the down, don't rebound so fast with your left hand:
  • now while you conduct, arrange your hair . . .  walk in 2, conduct in 4 . . .  walk in 4, conduct in 2 . . . conduct in 6, but walk in a free tempo . . . continue to conduct in 6 and turn enormous score pages constantly and slowly . . .  now speak very dramatically some common text"
"the goals of this are to relax, and to think and do different things"