When I began these reading assignments, I did not have a clear understanding of what I expected from a conductor. The conductors I have played for do so much to prepare for and lead rehearsals and yet I just expect it from them and do not question how they produce such results. These readings helped me to gain a new prospective on the conductor’s process before they step in front of an ensemble. Each of the authors whose works I read had a slightly different opinion of conductors and their role in an ensemble. One trait all the authors agreed was important for conductors was a strong inner ear.
A conductor needs to create an auditory image before going into a rehearsal so they can compare what they hear to what they were expecting to hear. This is very important because you cannot lead a group unless you know where you are headed. When applying this to my own conducting, I will need to learn to create my auditory image without the aid of recordings. I depend on recordings regularly to help me prepare for teaching and conducting so it will be hard for me to regulate my dependence on them. I enjoyed reading Lebrecht’s introduction. It helps me explain why I have never really questioned all a conductor does to prepare for rehearsals.
We often raise conductors to such a high level because they hold a lot of power over the ensemble sound without making any noise themselves. This requires us to put enormous amounts of trust in them to lead the ensemble in the right direction. This is true for all conductors, even those of us who plan on teaching in schools. I need to prepare diligently and consistently for each score I am leading so I do not betray the trust my students place in me. Dr. Stalter’s dissertation was the most helpful in regards to the conductor’s process and analysis.
All of the stages are equally important and there are many instances where a conductors will go back and forth between stages. The details he gave in the analyze section are great. I enjoy having checklists and while I realize all pieces will be different, it is nice to have a starting point. Labeling the different types of marks was also beneficial. By dividing my markings into structural marks and editorial marks I can focus on identifying exactly what I need to. The best piece of advice, and largest source of comfort, I found in this dissertation was, “the goal or outcome from analysis will be a better understanding of the score.
If the conductor is looking for ‘right’ answers, then the process is often circumvented and the conductor does not become full engaged in the composition” (Stalter 20). Even if I do not perfectly analyze all of the chords or harmonies in a piece, I will have learned from the process. The Complete Conductor by Gunther Schuller was the piece that impacted me the most if for no other reason than the fact he was so opinionated. I did agree with many of the points he made. My favorite quote of this piece was, “it is folly to think that we as performers, as re-creators, can elevate the work of art.
It is the work of art that can elevate us” (Schuller 8). This is the best argument I have heard for strictly adhering to the score and helps to strengthen the rest of his comments throughout the piece. His insists on following the composer’s instructions exactly because ignoring any one of them could drastically change the sound of the entire piece. While I agree conductors should try to bring to life the composer’s ideas like the composers would have done themselves, I struggle to believe this is the only way to conduct.
If a conductor uses their inner ear to create an auditory image of the piece, that is what they are going to use to guide their ensemble’s performance. Based on the different tastes of each conductor the performance will vary slightly. For example, if the conductor likes music with quick tempos, they are likely to take the pieces they conduct quicker than some other conductors. Other stylistic elements, like dynamics, are also dependent on the abilities ensemble members. These readings have helped me begin to form my own ideals about conducting as well as find my own process for score preparation and analysis.
My biggest challenge is going to be working on my inner ear. I need to rely on recordings less and start with reading through the score. Analyzing the score more will allow me to hear details in rehearsals and better help my future students improve their music skills. In the future I will attempt to follow the composer’s instructions more carefully while still applying my views to the music. These articles have certainly given me a lot to think about and will hopefully help my conducting immensely.