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#2197545 - 12/14/13 02:27 PM An annoying mannerism?
pianoloverus Online   content
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Well, for me it is but I suppose some think it's irrelevant. I'm talking about the "fly on the ceiling"(looking upward) habit some pianists have. I personally find this very distracting and annoying but some very good pianists seem to do this. I realize that most good pianists certainly don't have to stare at the keyboard(although Horowitz basically does this), so I don't mean to imply I think that approach is necessary.

I wonder why some pianists look at the ceiling or at least tilt their head back so far that they could? Is there a reason? Does it help them listen better? I cannot think of any "world class" pianists who do this(well, maybe one who does lots of other stuff also) although I'd guess there are some. I'm not talking about doing it very occasionally, but about those pianists who do it with incredible regularity...like every 10 seconds.

So my questions are:
1. Do you find it annoying and to what degree?
2. Why do you think some pianists do this? Do you think it is done almost subconsciously?
3. Any world class pianists who do this? Post a video if you can find one.



Edited by pianoloverus (12/14/13 02:33 PM)

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#2197548 - 12/14/13 02:33 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: pianoloverus]
JoelW Online   content
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Not annoying for me. Why do they do it? My guess is it creates a spiritual feeling. A connection to the composers "up there". Also, high ceilings of grand halls are nice to look at.

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#2197549 - 12/14/13 02:34 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: pianoloverus]
Goof Offline
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Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 316
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I wish I could do it for ten secs!
Actually if you try it you should find it relaxes the quadriceps muscle(s).

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#2197550 - 12/14/13 02:34 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: pianoloverus]
Mark_C Offline
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I think it's to make sure you're looking at nothing.

It's probably the main place to look if you want to be sure of being free of visual distractions. Or maybe a better way to put it is, being free of visual input, to the extent possible.
(Not that I'm any example of anything grin but, I don't do it; I just look slightly toward the backstage side of the stage, away from the audience -- for that reason. And it's my guess about why some people look up like that.)

After all, isn't that why we close our eyes sometimes? (And I don't mean just pianists.)

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#2197553 - 12/14/13 02:37 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: JoelW]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: JoelW
Not annoying for me. Why do the do it? My guess is it's creates a spiritual feeling. A connection to the composers "up there". Also, high ceilings of grand halls are nice to look at.
Well, the way to test your hypothesis would be to see if they did it when they played works by living composers. My guess is that pianists who look up do it whether or not the composer is alive.

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#2197554 - 12/14/13 02:38 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: Mark_C]
Polyphonist Offline
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Originally Posted By: Mark_C
I think it's to make sure you're looking at nothing.

It's probably the main place to look if you want to be sure of being free of visual distractions. Or maybe a better way to put it is, being free of visual input, to the extent possible.
(Not that I'm any example of anything grin but, I don't do it; I just look slightly toward the backstage side of the stage, away from the audience -- for that reason. And it's my guess about why some people look up like that.)

Why not just close your eyes then?
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#2197555 - 12/14/13 02:41 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: Polyphonist]
Mark_C Offline
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See my edit/addition.
I do that a fair amount too (and so do others, probably more so than looking up at the ceiling). I'd do it more, but I think it would look like I'm showing off. ha

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#2197558 - 12/14/13 02:44 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: pianoloverus]
Atrys Offline
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Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 473
There are plenty of world class pianists that do this!

By removing the activity in visual space, the brain has less noise to sort through. This makes it easier to focus on sound and sensation during play. The information throughput is increased because there is "one less" sense (that is, sight) coming in.

This is similar to how those that go blind develop an acute sense of hearing, etc.

That's really all there is to it!
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2197559 - 12/14/13 02:48 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: pianoloverus]
Kuanpiano Online   content
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I was working with a teacher/adjudicator a few weeks ago on Ondine, and she asked me "where" I'm listening. She pointed out that "where" you listen for the sound affects how you're playing and the mood you're conveying to the audience.

If you listen outwards towards your audience, your playing tends to be more 'descriptive" and communicative.

If you listen to the left, towards the bottom keys, your sound shies away and becomes more mysterious.

If you listen downwards, there is a tendency to become more sonorous.

And if you listen upwards there's a tendency to be more ....sort of 'reaching up to the heavens', or at least the ceiling.

Relating to this topic, sometimes it helps you to aim your listening by physically moving your head.
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Working on:
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#2197564 - 12/14/13 02:53 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: Mark_C]
bennevis Online   content
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If - and when - I'm very familiar with a piece, I'd often look without focusing, at the distance, in order to concentrate on the sound I'm producing. I do that sometimes too, when I'm concentrating on memorizing a piece, so that I can better feel the movements my hands & fingers are making, and the way the keys move beneath my fingers, and marry that to the sound I'm hearing. Whereas if I look at the keyboard instead, I'd have to focus on it, which detracts slightly from concentrating on the actual sound.

Craning my neck to look at the ceiling is somewhat uncomfortable for me, however, so I don't do that. But many concert pianists do gaze unseeingly into the distance while playing - though few actually look upwards.

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#2197580 - 12/14/13 03:17 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: Atrys]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Atrys
There are plenty of world class pianists that do this!
Which ones do it? Remember, I'm not talking about someone like Rubinstein who did it very occasionally. I'm talking about those who do it perhaps as often as every 10 seconds, i.e. moving their head up and down very frequently.


Edited by pianoloverus (12/14/13 03:21 PM)

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#2197583 - 12/14/13 03:21 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: pianoloverus]
Auntie Lynn Offline
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The last time I saw Jeremy Denk, he was a masterpiece of distraction. Like a praying mantis on a hot griddle. The fidgeting and fluttering was all I remember from the perf -- not what he played...also, Ollie Mustonen and all the gyrotonics - what he played was not that hard.

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#2197584 - 12/14/13 03:21 PM Re: An annoying mannerism? [Re: pianoloverus]
gooddog Online   content
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Oh dear, I look down to the left, (edit: oops, the other left; I mean my right.) Where does that leave me?

I don't know if this is from a reliable source but I just found it:


Edited by gooddog (12/14/13 05:59 PM)
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#2197586 - 12/14/13 03:23 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: pianoloverus]
Atrys Offline
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Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 473
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Which ones do it?

Off the top of my head:
Yundi Li
Yuja Wang
Valentina Lisitsa
Lang Lang
Kempf

Some more than others, but I would argue, nearly all experienced pianists do this to some extent. It's a very helpful, in-born mechanism that we humans have.
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2197588 - 12/14/13 03:26 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: pianoloverus]
FSO Offline
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It doesn't annoy me at all. A slightly more scientific explanation might be discovered in how neurons react in given situations; for example, if you turn your eyes upwards without tilting your head your ability to spell increases (no, I'm not joking smile ). Um..when we experience trauma we often *hang* our heads, when we try to think of solutions we peer more or less straight...um...when we think happy thoughts our eyes also dilate by a fraction, when we think of mundane and untaxing things our pupils constrict. My scientific answer, therefore, would be that it's, in the majority of cases, a subconscious reaction to emotions present in the act of playing....um...some would, of course, emulate such actions to give the impression that such emotions are present. Emotions definitely affect posture; would it not make sense that postures may affect emotion? Um....my less scientific explanation would be that certain transcendent emotions have the ability to affect physicality without, themselves, being physical. That, indeed, impression and intent will leak out through an experience of art to mould the physical plane; they do not choose to look up when they play, they are made to laugh
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#2197589 - 12/14/13 03:26 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: Kuanpiano]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Registered: 05/29/01
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Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano
I was working with a teacher/adjudicator a few weeks ago on Ondine, and she asked me "where" I'm listening. She pointed out that "where" you listen for the sound affects how you're playing and the mood you're conveying to the audience.

If you listen outwards towards your audience, your playing tends to be more 'descriptive" and communicative.

If you listen to the left, towards the bottom keys, your sound shies away and becomes more mysterious.

If you listen downwards, there is a tendency to become more sonorous.

And if you listen upwards there's a tendency to be more ....sort of 'reaching up to the heavens', or at least the ceiling.

Relating to this topic, sometimes it helps you to aim your listening by physically moving your head.
Do you agree with what the teacher said? I'm not convinced that turning your head a few inches in one direction affects what you hear.

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#2197590 - 12/14/13 03:28 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: Atrys]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Atrys
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Which ones do it?

Off the top of my head:
Yundi Li
Yuja Wang
Valentina Lisitsa
Lang Lang
Kempf

Some more than others, but I would argue, nearly all experienced pianists do this to some extent. It's a very helpful, in-born mechanism that we humans have.
My impression is that only LL does this with any frequency and I have seen endless videos of all these pianists. However, I will look at some more videos of the other four. Or perhaps you can posts some YouTube videos?

Edit: I just watched Lisitsa in the first and third movement of Beethoven's Moonlight and saw zero ceiling gazing in the first few minutes of each piece.

For Yundi Li I listened to the first two minutes of this Chopin Nocturne and zero upward gazing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvxS_bJ0yOU


Edited by pianoloverus (12/14/13 03:39 PM)

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#2197592 - 12/14/13 03:32 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: pianoloverus]
Kuanpiano Online   content
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Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2048
Loc: Canada
I do agree with it, but it's not really where you're moving your head, but more as to where you're trying to listen from, and where you are trying to 'aim' your sound.

Ondine has all of these situations - the opening is descriptive/impressionistic. The dialogue in the middle section includes mysterious shifting of voices. The climax and the build-up towards it involves getting a large sound. The second last page before Ondine disappears is quite heavenly...

I think the main message is to think about how spatial awareness of one's sound affects the mood. Of course she also said that these analogies with for some people and not for others, but I'm finding it to be quite useful.
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Working on:
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#2197593 - 12/14/13 03:32 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: pianoloverus]
Atrys Offline
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Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 473
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

My impression is that only LL does this with any frequency and I have seen endless videos of all these pianists. However, I will look at some more videos of the other four. Or perhaps you can posts some YouTube videos?

I'll give one example (the rest are not hard to find). In this video, of what is perhaps the most fluid and convincing interpretation of this piece ever recorded (I could get shot for making this claim here!), Yundi's eyes stray from the keyboard often.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvm2ZsRv3C8

Why does it matter if world class pianists do this? Everyone does this. There is only one real explanation for it...all other explanations are just derivatives.
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2197594 - 12/14/13 03:36 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: Atrys]
Kuanpiano Online   content
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Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2048
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Atrys
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

My impression is that only LL does this with any frequency and I have seen endless videos of all these pianists. However, I will look at some more videos of the other four. Or perhaps you can posts some YouTube videos?

I'll give one example (the rest are not hard to find). In this video, of what is perhaps the most fluid and convincing interpretation of this piece ever recorded (I could get shot for making this claim here!), Yundi's eyes stray from the keyboard often.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvm2ZsRv3C8

Why does it matter if world class pianists do this? Everyone does this. There is only one real explanation for it...all other explanations are just derivatives.

I'll disagree with you - it's a bit more complicated than that and it has to do with personality, training, inherent qualities that manifest in some people only, culture, technical proficiency, the kind of music being played, the instrument being played....and those are only a few examples.
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Working on:
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Debussy - Suite Bergamasque
Schubert - Drei Klavierstücke D. 946
Rachmaninoff - Piano Sonata op.28

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#2197596 - 12/14/13 03:37 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: Kuanpiano]
Atrys Offline
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Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 473
Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano

I'll disagree with you - it's a bit more complicated than that and it has to do with personality, training, inherent qualities that manifest in some people only, culture, technical proficiency, the kind of music being played, the instrument being played....and those are only a few examples.

Actually, it has nothing to do with just about any of those things.

The reason we do this has only one single, automatic cause as a response to external stimuli. The things you have listed are naive derivatives.


Edited by Atrys (12/14/13 03:38 PM)
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2197601 - 12/14/13 03:48 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: Atrys]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Atrys
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

My impression is that only LL does this with any frequency and I have seen endless videos of all these pianists. However, I will look at some more videos of the other four. Or perhaps you can posts some YouTube videos?

I'll give one example (the rest are not hard to find). In this video, of what is perhaps the most fluid and convincing interpretation of this piece ever recorded (I could get shot for making this claim here!), Yundi's eyes stray from the keyboard often.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvm2ZsRv3C8

Why does it matter if world class pianists do this? Everyone does this. There is only one real explanation for it...all other explanations are just derivatives.
Yes, he does in that video but in the one I posted he does not do so at all in the first tow minutes after which I stopped liostening. It's even possible that since this was for a music video and not for a concert his upward glance was staged. I'll check out some more performances of his and see if he does this often in actual concert performances.

I'll have to disagree with you very strongly about most professional pianists doing this. I've been to hundreds of live recitals by the world's best pianists. Since I find frequent gazing at the ceiling annoying I find it hard that I to believe that they've done this with regularity and I didn't notice it.

Edit:I just listened to Yundi Li's performance of Andante Spianato from the Chopin Competition. I am choosing pieces where there is plenety of opportunity for ceiling gazing due to the technical requirements of the piece. On the video(which did not show his face all the time) he briefly looked up(but mostly with his eyes and not leaning his head back much) around five times in that long and slow piece. I do not find this kind of gazing distracting. I am talking about the pianist who is bends his head back far more than Li and who does so with far greater frequency and larger movement.

Now I will check some other pianists on your list.

Second Edit:Just checked Kempff's performance of the first movement of the Moonlight...again a piece with farm more opportunity than most for gazing. In the entire movement he looked up maybe five times and again mostly with his eyes which is far less distracting then the major head tilt. Sometimes he closed his eyes and sometimes he stared straight ahead or down. Again, this is not what I'm talking about or meant to imply in my OP.

I've certainly heard some master class teachers criticize(usually in a joking way but still meaning it) students for gazing to the heavens, so I'm surprised that some think this is obviously without fault(as opposed to they don't mind it).

For me this topic is very similar to what some pianists do when they sit down on the bench at the beginning of a recital. I'm not talking about adjusting the height if the bench which in competitions may not be possible to do ahead of time. Very few, if any, top pianists do anything more than perhaps sit quietly for a few seconds to ready themselves. I think most of the best pianists get ready relatively quickly and at least very "quietly". Some younger and less experienced pianists seem to take forever wiggling around, moving their arms, their behind, etc. etc. As well as they may play I find this slightly unprofessional. I'm certainly not saying it's a major point. What happens when they finally start to play is more important.


Edited by pianoloverus (12/14/13 04:27 PM)

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#2197606 - 12/14/13 04:03 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: pianoloverus]
Atrys Offline
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Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 473
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

I am talking about the pianist who is bends his head back far more than Li and who does so with far greater frequency and larger movement.

Now I will check some other pianists on your list.

Ah, okay. In this case, yes, there are far fewer pianists that do this smile
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2197611 - 12/14/13 04:11 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: pianoloverus]
jdw Online   content
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Registered: 03/04/11
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If pianists are producing beautiful music, they can look wherever they want as far as I'm concerned.
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1989 Baldwin R

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#2197614 - 12/14/13 04:25 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: jdw]
bennevis Online   content
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Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4389
Arcadi Volodos looks skywards frequently:

http://youtu.be/qulOpRB0O_c

Almost from the start, and especially when things slow down from 5:50....

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#2197637 - 12/14/13 06:06 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: Atrys]
DanS Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/28/12
Posts: 470
Originally Posted By: Atrys
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Which ones do it?

Off the top of my head:
Yundi Li
Yuja Wang
Valentina Lisitsa
Lang Lang
Kempf

Some more than others, but I would argue, nearly all experienced pianists do this to some extent. It's a very helpful, in-born mechanism that we humans have.
I seem to remember Yulianna Avdeeva doing it.

It's not just pianists. We called it starting at invisible music in school.
_________________________
"Most pianists are poor musicians, they dissect music into bits-and-pieces, like a roast chicken" -Debussy

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#2197648 - 12/14/13 06:31 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: Atrys]
Kuanpiano Online   content
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Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2048
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Atrys
Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano

I'll disagree with you - it's a bit more complicated than that and it has to do with personality, training, inherent qualities that manifest in some people only, culture, technical proficiency, the kind of music being played, the instrument being played....and those are only a few examples.

Actually, it has nothing to do with just about any of those things.

The reason we do this has only one single, automatic cause as a response to external stimuli. The things you have listed are naive derivatives.

Well if you are satisfied with the answer to everything in this universe including all human problems being traced back to how subatomic particles interact, then be my guest...

Granted, your "reason" was never stated in your post so I did make an assumption.
_________________________
Working on:
Ravel - Ondine
Debussy - Suite Bergamasque
Schubert - Drei Klavierstücke D. 946
Rachmaninoff - Piano Sonata op.28

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#2197649 - 12/14/13 06:33 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: pianoloverus]
Atrys Offline
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Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 473
@Kaunpiano
That's hilarious, but still, wrong laugh
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2197657 - 12/14/13 06:58 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: Polyphonist]
Derulux Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5067
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
I think it's to make sure you're looking at nothing.

It's probably the main place to look if you want to be sure of being free of visual distractions. Or maybe a better way to put it is, being free of visual input, to the extent possible.
(Not that I'm any example of anything grin but, I don't do it; I just look slightly toward the backstage side of the stage, away from the audience -- for that reason. And it's my guess about why some people look up like that.)

Why not just close your eyes then?

At least some of our balance is determined by visual cues, so they may feel unbalanced by doing this.
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Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2197665 - 12/14/13 07:16 PM Re: An annoying mannersism? [Re: DanS]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: DanS
I seem to remember Yulianna Avdeeva doing it.

It's not just pianists. We called it starting at invisible music in school.
Perhaps but she looked up only once in the first 7 minutes of this video.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6IMAB5Awoo

Of the videos posted so far only parts of the Volodos would fall(for me)in the excessive gazing category...the kind I find distracting and even notice it. And there are some pianists who are far worse and basically lift their head up and down for the entire length of each piece. They could, in the course of a 5 minute piece, gaze at the heavens and then back down 30 times.

Do any of the piano teachers at your school object to this or do they think it's not a problem?


Edited by pianoloverus (12/14/13 07:18 PM)

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Uneven key balance
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Antique Piano Shop from TN
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Piano song requests?
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2014 Bradshaw and Buono Piano Competition
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