Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cowardly old world

UPDATE to that: Simon, from a comment near you, suggests hooking up a motion-activated Wii device. I would think that something like that is ultimately a better-than-pedal solution (assuming that one could restrict the page-turns to a discrete motion that wouldn't tend to happen by accident); but the annoying left side of my brain has reminded me that if there's only one tricky page turn in this 8-page piece I'm playing, then I'm much better off doing the old-fashioned paper thing. That allows for two pages at a time, so the one difficult turn is no longer a turn at all. It also eliminates my slight fear that this heavy laptop might slide off the music rack. Now that would be an accident!

In fact, the one thing I don't really like about Hugh Sung's Tablet PC approach is that you only get one page at a time (unless you're willing to read very small print). My dream scenario would have two full-sized pages across. Actually, I would still probably choose to "turn" once per page in such a way that the current page slides to the left and the new one appears on the right, meaning the most immediate notes would always be in view. Thus, there would be some flexibility about the timing of the switch. This is the approach I use when working with a bunch of single, unbound sheets. (The kind of thing students tend to bring into coachings.) Given that the Tablet PC's are quite expensive to begin with, I may have to wait a while before the double-sided screen size is affordable.

I like the idea, though, of not having to kick my left foot out for page-turns, especially since I'm such a soft-pedal addict. (Truthfully, I'd be better off getting that addiction under control.) I think rather than some special "turn" motion, the best option would be what we'll call the Dorothy approach - click the heels together and it's off to the Kansas of the next page. That way both piano pedals could still be engaged. It's a motion that could be accomplished quickly and easily, but hopefully not inadvertently. Of course, there also needs to be a 'go back' motion (toes together?) just in case. In fact, I'm amazed that Hugh Sung is willing to put up with all the things that could go wrong - battery dying, heavy computer falling off the rack, pedal switch sliding away, pages turning too fast - but he seems to be an intrepid sort, like all the great pioneers. He probably also knows his music well.

Thinking of the whole motion-activating problem reminds me of a dilemma I faced during our recent Opera Scenes programs. In this case, I was trying to motion-activate the page turns by signaling my old-fashioned human assistant with nods of the head. I'm pretty finicky about when the pages turn because - well, because I don't practice enough and I like to see every note. I've also noticed that, being such a sight-reader by nature, I get distracted when I can't see everything, no matter how well I know the music. This particular turner was very good about following my nods and, since some of the music goes by very fast, she relied on me more than following the score.

Unfortunately, it also turned out that, during the fastest and most hard-to-follow passages, I was sometimes cueing singers with head nods. So, yes, we had more than a few instances of pages turning when I was just trying to bring a singer in. This was very stressful, but it would have helped if I could have been less concerned about seeing every note. Because my entire page-to-eyes-to-brain-to-fingers-to-keys way of processing is so ingrained, I'm often surprised at how off-kilter I feel when, say, a book that's holding the music open is covering up the key signature. Now, I might know with no doubt that there are three sharps, but if they're out of view then everything feels wrong. It makes me realize that I'm doing constant little scans of the key signature as part of that whole eyes/brain/fingers subconscious processing. What a thing, the brain.

All this is to say that, although a new music concert seemed like a perfect opportunity to show off new technology, I'd probably be better off not debuting this experience with music I don't know well at all.

1 comment:

Elaine Fine said...

I watched Sung's demonstration of his notebook computers, and though I was impressed with his trust in the whole business of using a computer instead of paper, I still like paper. I like the way light reflects off it when I'm playing. I like the way music looks on paper. I like not having to worry about a light source making it impossible for my middle-aged eyes to see the sceen properly at a distance adequate for playing.

I do agree with you that a two-page version would be far nicer because often people who publish music or prepare it for publication allow difficult passagework in both hands to happen between the insides of an even-numbered page and an odd-numbered one.

I also like the fact that I can put music in my violin or viola case and carry it around with me. A notebook computer would make it necessary for me to carry a whole 'nother bag. I would also have to worry about making sure the thing had enough battery power.