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#2147170 - 09/09/13 08:02 PM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: Jeff Clef]
Steve Armstrong Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/22/13
Posts: 21
Thanks Jeff, good idea.
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Prokofiev Seventh
Franck Prelude, Choral and Fugue

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#2147173 - 09/09/13 08:04 PM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: Morodiene]
Steve Armstrong Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/22/13
Posts: 21
then you don't need to say anything...
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Prokofiev Seventh
Franck Prelude, Choral and Fugue

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#2147186 - 09/09/13 08:18 PM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: Steve Armstrong]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5414
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Steve Armstrong
then you don't need to say anything...

Wow, with this attitude! Good luck getting ANY help.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2147209 - 09/09/13 09:11 PM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: Sweet06]
Steve Armstrong Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/22/13
Posts: 21
And how do you think professional teachers form opinions? Is it so wrong to have an informed opinion; one that goes beyond 'it's what I was taught' or 'it's in the Bastein/Afreds et al books?' Is it so unimaginable that a teacher would invest time and research into pedagogy? That's the kind of teacher I'd want: one who is dedicated; one who is not satisfied with the knowledge they already have; one who is not stubborn or ignorant; one who is not complacent.

Clearly, I've hurt some precious egos asking not for personal opinions but sources. Frankly, it reveals a lot about them as teachers: it reflects very poorly upon themselves showing that they are in fact complacent and immature. The attitudes reflected are not good qualities in a teacher at all. I wouldn't send my kids to them!

How did this topic come to this!?
_________________________
Prokofiev Seventh
Franck Prelude, Choral and Fugue

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#2147294 - 09/09/13 11:29 PM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: Steve Armstrong]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...Clearly, I've hurt some precious egos asking not for personal opinions but sources. Frankly, it reveals a lot about them as teachers: it reflects very poorly..."

Aw, these guys aren't so bad, taking the median score. Steve, I have the impression that you may have been upset about something else, and that feeling carried over into your original posts, and that is why the thread got to be... you know. I'm going to hope that this will end up better for you than it started out.

"...Looking for some actual sources, not opinionsthat address the importance of learning Bach in the early years of study, especially in higher education..."

I will give it a whack, though I'm far from sure my modest little resources will suit. There are two favorites in my own library: Albert Schweitzer's two-volume biography of Bach (and I think he does hit on your topic a fair bit; anyway, he's well-informed about it), and Malcolm Boyd's simply-titled "Bach," from Oxford University Press.

Some people do not care for his music. But when I first heard his works as a young child, it made me light up inside with a love for the sound, and fired up with the wish to be able to play it for myself. And since Bach spent his entire professional career as a teacher, he has left many teaching pieces, which scale well no matter what level the student may have attained.

So I'll go out on a limb, and say that those are two sources, and two guesses based on my own experience which may point to the sources you're looking for. AND two hints regarding librarians: a smile, and any personal charm you may have, are not lost on these persons. It can be well worth while to win them over.

Good luck to you.
_________________________
Clef


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#2147309 - 09/10/13 12:20 AM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: Jeff Clef]
Steve Armstrong Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/22/13
Posts: 21
You're very perceptive, Jeff! I see what you're saying. But no, I wasn't upset by anything before smile Too frequently posts wander off and naturally are filled with opinions, which is great! That's the idea right! But I just wanted to make it clear that in this case, I didn't want to sift through all that to find some useful sources.

Thanks again for the advice. Good stuff. I will certainly look into it.

Haha yeah some librarians need to be charmed...
_________________________
Prokofiev Seventh
Franck Prelude, Choral and Fugue

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#2148654 - 09/12/13 09:14 AM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: Steve Armstrong]
Doritos Flavoured Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/10/12
Posts: 98
Loc: Brazil
it's a direct line of ancestry in keyboard playing: Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier was one of the top works back then and Mozart, Beethoven played and were in turn influenced by it. Then Mozart influenced Chopin and Beethoven Czerny and Liszt and so on... it's all related.

dude, even jazz musicians admire Bach. stop thinking about chords alone and pay some respect to interweaving melodic lines...
_________________________
unlocked by keys
wordless poetry sings free
- piano music -

my piano haiku

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#2150536 - 09/15/13 01:16 PM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: Steve Armstrong]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1169
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Steve,

Let me also offer that this is a historical tradition in the West. Why do teachers insist on their students learning Bach? Because they ALWAYS have.

If you've already thought of any of the following, please forgive me for stating the inarguably obvious.

Bach's music has commanded the admiration and respect of the cognoscenti since his death in 1750. The revival in 1849 brought it the attention and support of the European music-going public. It has stayed there ever since. And with the encroachment of Western culture into every corner of the planet, Bach's music has only grown in popularity.

Bach is most likely the most-performed composer who has ever lived. More people have learned to play or sing Bach all over the world in the last 250+ years than they have learned to play or sing "over the rainbow", right up there with "happy birthday" in all its iterations.

I don't think there's any neurophysical advantage per se developed when young students learn Bach early. The same neuromotor/cognitive skills are developed playing any good music in the early grades. So why do teachers assign it, then?

Because it's very good music, firstly. The tunes are lovely, and the construction is interesting to listen to and to play. At the early grades, there's very little other material that compares as well. And then there are the coordinational skills one learns by playing such a piece. So it's very profitable to study such pieces early on.

Another is the respect of every significant musician. The strict fugal exposition and development is still considered one of the most powerful compositional procedures ever developed on the West, and papa Bach is considered to be its very last exponent, and one of its greatest right along with Josquin.

Another thing is the sheer beauty of the music, and its unique expression on a keyboard instrument. The overall quality of the output is very high. The keyboard works are perfectly idiomatic for the instrument and are among the first in history to be so. Bach made sure that everything that left his desk was of a consistently high level of craftsmanship, artistry, and technical skill.

There are very few other composers who have achieved that consummate level of artistry.

Lastly, the bulk of the keyboard output is very difficult. Even the "Inventions" require very sophisticated and developed technical and musical skills from the student, as well as an advancing level of taste and command of period style. It takes a good deal to make them sound like anything. If a student can do so, they've achieved a very good level.

Which is why teachers of advancing students assign these pieces. They know that future auditions will require students to show that they 1- can actually play these pieces well, and 2- they can actually make them sound like they should.

Also, I don't think Bach is assigned only in "the first years" at top schools. The major works are in fact taught to students throughout their study and beyond, and are performed by almost every major artist on concert platforms all over the world daily. That last alone is reason enough to assign them for study.
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2154493 - 09/20/13 02:02 PM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: AZNpiano]
JanVan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/13
Posts: 51
Currently I am studying Bach's 2-part invention no. 13 and I would sure love to hear your and other piano teacher's opinions on the subject of why every pianist should study the 2-part and 3-part inventions.

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#2154798 - 09/20/13 11:17 PM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: JanVan]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
I would like to weigh in on this in a manner which will be helpful to both students and younger teachers.

First, what Greg says above is golden. Print it out, post it somewhere, so you can reread it periodically.

Bach may have been early, but he was, in every sense of the word, the MASTER musician. Teachers, students, the general public, who don't know Bach and at least some of his music, are genuinely ignorant of the greatness of the master. Haydn and Mozart knew Bach intimately. Mendelssohn-Bartholdi reintroduced Bach to the general public, but musicians knew him well. Chopin knew and played his works often; his preludes are a tribute to Bach. Liszt knew him and wrote music dedicated to him. Busoni, the great Italian master pianist, knew Bach and wrote piano versions of his greatest preludes and chorales. These are excruciatingly difficult and are often used by the great artists as the opening pieces on programs.

Bach didn't write just for keyboard, ie, organ and clavier. He wrote for orchestras and choirs. His cantatas are marvelous; his Brandenburg concertos for orchestra are absolutely magnificent. His greatest works, by far, are the passions. The very best is the Passion According to Saint Matthew. This work will literally reach into your soul, wring it out, leaving you emotionally drained for hours. Bach was very much a romantic. He literally wrote music 150 years ahead of its time. If you can listen to the closing chorus of the St Matthew, and when the final cadence plays, not be reduced to tears, you are simply not human.

Many a pop and jazz musicians, if you scratch below the surface, you'll find a rather surprising and deep knowledge of Bach. In a very real sense, Bach was the very first jazz musician. That we are now comfortable with new and discordant tonalities is due in large measure to Bach's willingness to find ways around the rules of composition and introduce new harmonies.

My student's progress, which is shared by most teachers, are the simple dances and preludes first, then the inventions, followed by the French Suites, then on to the Well Tempered Clavier and Sinfonias, the Italian Concerto, and on and on. After they learn six or so of the inventions, I add the French Suites for flavor and variety. Beginning with #5. And they learn it in its entirety, not just one or two of the dances. My usual teaching order is Gavotte, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Bourree, Gigue, and finally, the Loure. I place the Loure last because it's a major counting problem. After they learn #5, I give them the choice of learning #4 or #6.

Even though they may be learning the French Suite, I continue to assign Inventions over a 3 or 4 year period, until they've learned at least 8 of them. #13 is fairly early in my teaching, usually around the 4th or 5th Invention to be studied. It's a lot of fun, with the overlapping subjects. Voicing it effectively is a major accomplishment for students. If your teacher isn't teaching you voicing (voice leading), then you're missing out on much of what's important in their study.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2154804 - 09/20/13 11:31 PM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Over on the Piano Forum, there's a topic on Steinway which, if you view the video, you'll discover that the video begins and ends with Bach - the French Suite #5. Now, can you identify the dances used?
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2154873 - 09/21/13 05:07 AM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
JanVan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/13
Posts: 51
Quote:
Even though they may be learning the French Suite, I continue to assign Inventions over a 3 or 4 year period, until they've learned at least 8 of them. #13 is fairly early in my teaching, usually around the 4th or 5th Invention to be studied. It's a lot of fun, with the overlapping subjects. Voicing it effectively is a major accomplishment for students. If your teacher isn't teaching you voicing (voice leading), then you're missing out on much of what's important in their study.


Thank you for outlining your student's progress through Bach's keyboard works.

However, I do not know about the concept of voicing mentioned in your post. Could you please explain what it means and how to put it into practice, especially with regards to invention no. 13?

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#2154924 - 09/21/13 09:08 AM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: JanVan]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Jan, most of our contemporary pop and folk music uses a melody supported by a harmony of some sort. In Bach's day, they often played two or more melodies against each other to create harmony. These melodies are more correctly termed Subjects. There are other melodies or notes which form patterns which are labeled counterpoints, as they, too, play against the subject, to harmonize. Bach's Inventions are the magnum opus of this type of writing and was prepared especially for students. When playing the Inventions, we have to shape the subjects and counterpoints so that they are both interesting and play well against each other. Your teacher should be pointing these out to you at each lesson, so that you can learn to recognize them on your own. Voicing, in short, is simply learning how to play one subject or melody against another one to achieve a musical balance. Hope this brief explanation helps.

John
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2156793 - 09/24/13 11:29 AM Re: Why do higher ed. institutes teach Bach in first year(s)? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1169
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Jan,

I'd like to underline John's thought about voicing a but further.

Playing counterpoint on the piano is already a neurophysically advanced skill. Being able to do it well shows that the student is capable of doing many other things besides, from a purely physical and coordinational standpoint.

However, merely being able to perform the physical maneuvers in these textures is not enough. There must also be a good deal of expression in the playing and involvement with the music by the performer. These last require a good deal of taste, maturity and experience from the player. Not many players can pull that off very well. If you ever go hear any community Bach festival auditions, you'll hear many kids and young people who've worked very hard to give a solid and credible performance of these pieces. But very few of them are able to make them sound like anything artistically, or show off the polyphony clearly.

Which brings me to John's point about voicing. What he is talking about is the ability of the player to bring out certain voices, or subjects, at will, and push others into the background so the important ones can be heard. As straightforward as that might sound, it is an extremely difficult acoustic "trick" or sound effect to pull off convincingly, especially in the inner voices. Among other things, it requires that the performer is able to listen and hear themselves with complete objectivity, in order to gauge exactly how to adjust the dynamic and color levels of each voice so they can be heard distinctly.

Being able to hear one's self is one of the most essential of the advanced skills a musician needs, and it is one of the most difficult to acquire. Hardly any student can do it! As an experienced teacher working with students at every level of ability, I can tell you that it is very hard to get students to the point where they can hear themselves very clearly. Playing contrapuntal textures like a Bach fugue is one of the many ways one develops this skill.

Now, voicing is not an obvious issue one finds in a two-voice texture, rather it is one of balance between the hands. But when you are playing a fugue of 3 or more voices, it becomes an essential feature of the music and a serious artistic problem for the performer. As to how to do it, there isn't enough space on this thread to tell you. Besides, I get paid good money by people to work with them to develop this skill. It can take years to laborious study to do so. Find a good teacher, and get to work.

If you need an example, my preference is Rosalyn Turek's Well-Tempered:

http://www.amazon.com/Plays-Bach-Well-Te...alyn+Turek+Well

These are very old mono recordings with some hiss in them. However, Turek's fugal style is unsurpassed. You can hear every single voice distinctly, full of character and expression. Nobody does this as well as she did, not even Gould.
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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