Friday, 29 March 2013

Pay attention to beginnings

Tchaikovsky states that the fanfares at the opening of his 4th Symphony are ‘the kernel, the quintessence, the chief thought of the whole symphony’. The famous four-note motif at the start of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony could be described in a similar way with regard to its first movement.

This emphasis upon the beginning of things can also be found within the way music is rehearsed and performed. Carlos Kleiber, the famous conductor, once spent 3 hours rehearsing 80 seconds of the opening to Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. He knew instinctively that how the music developed during the rest of the performance would be influenced greatly by how it was conceived and executed at its start.

Addressing issues and problems effectively can be less about where and how we finish and more about where and how we begin. It can be very tempting, and seemingly effective, to focus upon the outputs we require and then identify and address the main obstacles to their achievement. This is much like a musician who, thinking of the perfect performance, is drawn immediately towards practising the most difficult and demanding passages of a piece of music. Wise musicians, however, will resist this temptation. They will first seek to gain a deep understanding of a piece’s fundamental roots: its essential themes, harmonies and structures. They will then use this understanding to anchor and then develop their performance: growing up and into a piece’s more complex areas rather than unsteadily stretching and grasping for them.

If you want to enhance your ability to understand and address the problems you face, begin by gaining a clear and thorough understanding of their beginnings. Get into the habit of asking the following:

·      Where and when did people first recognise, hear about or experience the problem?

·      How did it first appear to people?

·      What did it look and feel like initially?

·      What, upon being first identified, were its most important or outstanding characteristics?

·      What were the initial consequences of the problem?

·      Why did it appear when and where it did?

·      What was the context within which it first appeared?

·      What were the forces and pressures that created it?

·      Where, how and why were the initial foundations of the problem laid and what were they made of?

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