I like to ask musicians their vision and I see people in their ascendency , horizon and comfortable place with life. Robert is sincerely in a comfortable place with himself!
Karen: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Robert:In ten years? Since I’m now 67, I hope I’m still on the right side of the grass in ten years. I’ve been playing part time only, and post covid 19, I may be retired completely. I will try to continue promoting my online music sales and currently some of my selections are being carried by a music sync licensing company; this involves music for films, videos, ads, etc. I may devote more of my attention in this direction, but we’ll see as time goes by.
Karen: Ah, I think music is not an art we retire from. It’s something we retain lifelong. And in your final words on the matter….
Play it again……!
Continuing my conversation with Robert Long, guest on my blog this week.
Karen: I heard an interview with Dion DiMucci last week who said that musical talent is like finding gold in a river. Very rare. Are there young players coming through that you rate?
Robert: I am confident that there are many wonderful young players with plenty of talent. However, the word “talent” can be a bit deceptive, especially with something as multi faceted as music and music performance. A good music improviser may not have the sight reading skills needed for printed music. The excellent sight reader may be a bit uncomfortable trying to pull something out of thin air if the printed music won’t suffice. The pianist with a blistering tempo may not be amenable to tempos that need to be pulled back for the dance students. Is the excellent performer a good accompanist as well?
KAREN: Yes,it is always difficult for musicians who don’t work in this realm to quite grasp these matters. Often a great technical player just doesn’t ‘see’ inside movement. Or perhaps it’s a form of Synesthesia?
This week I’ve been speaking to Robert Long whose printed music is available on the website. His knowledge of the art is boundless and has some great insight into our profession. Over the next few days you shall hear his thoughts.
Karen: Ive noticed in all the decades Ive been playing that the basic format of Ballet class has not essentially changed. I know you too have been playing for a long time in dance studios. Have you changed your musical approach or methodology in Class?
Robert:As the years went by, I was working more for syllabus classes and less for open classes, so there was not a lot of change in methodology for me. For what little open work I was doing, I found I was a bit more willing and less afraid of improvising on the spot, if I couldn’t think of a suitable piece to play. I also began to bring lists of selections categorized under headings such as 3/4 adagio, grand allegro waltz, 4/4 moderate, etc. Beyond that, I just hoped for the best.
Karen: I think that is why Scottish Ballet teamed up with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland now 14 years back! Too many musicians were ‘hoping for the best’ and could really be in the firing line if their music was not completely right for Class. The Piano for Dance Masters course addressed that. I’ve worked tirelessly to create a model where young musicians can learn a methodology whilst keeping their Musical Instincts alive!
Margot Fonteyn in her dressing room. Ballet Class may not have changed radically but the choreography certainly has!
It has been wonderful sharing insights with Kim SoHyun this week. Here is our final chat:
Karen: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
So Hyun: Ten years from now, I’d still be in my mid-30s (I’m in my mid-20s)…
I’m trying a lot right now.
Studying midi, modern dance music, and film scoring by myself.
I will still study and work at the same time, but my ultimate goal is to compose a ballet work.
I want to be a director myself, just as musicians produced ballet works in the early days of classical ballet.
Karen: Perhaps a new stable akin to 21C Diaghilev! Where Music, Dance, Art and Design join forces to become a sum greater than its parts.
Diaghilev with Igor Stravinsky
Karen: Bringing your musical skills to the dance studio is a unique experience. How do you personally link the dance structures with your music?
So Hyun:Actually, I started ballet first as a hobby before I became a ballet pianist.I personally experienced which music moves my body by dancing myself.
Many ballet-class music keeps the beat right and uses accents to all down beats. I think this is important to strengthen the basics, but it didn’t move my body.
For me the most important element of all is melody.
The emotionally expressive melody always makes the body move. Sitting in front of the piano in the dance studio, I apply this exactly to the dancers.
This is a group of highly skilled musicians and researchers based mainly in US. Recently Andy Hasenpflug, music director of American Dance Festival asked for 60 scores each lasting 60 seconds. Glad to hear my piece ‘The Asylum’ from my opera The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, was chosen as one such piece choreographed by Olivia Shirley.
Continuing our chat about influences in our music….
So Hyun….I really like Art Tatum’s music, so I imitated a lot of accents and harmonies, so I think it comes out naturally from me.
Karen: I adore Art Tatum’s style, simplicity and Bach-like complexity all bound into one. It’s really interesting to note that he was blinded in one eye. It reminds me of a short period of time when I lost my hearing in one ear and suddenly could not improvise at all. The connection between hand and ear was broken. It was devastating but turned out it was only for a month or two until my inner eardrum healed.
I hope that title got you interested in our featured artist this week! Kim So Hyun. Originally from Korea and now based in Toronto Canada.Each day this week we will be posting a short excerpt from her interview in artofclass.online/blog:
Karen: I’ve noticed that many of your improvisations have jazz influences. Who are your musical heroes?
So Hyun : I always listen to as many genres of jazz as possible. So it’s hard to choose.But since I first started as a ballet pianist, the music I have heard the most is Nancy McDill’s (American ballet) . Nancy’s music is melodious, beautiful and emotional.And I really like Art Tatum’s music, so I imitated a lot of accents and harmonies, so I think it comes out naturally from me.While preparing for the second album, I studied and analyzed a lot about Poulenc. If someone asks who is your favorite musician now, I will answer Poulenc.If I work on my third album, it is expected that the influence of the Poulenc will be enormous.
Karen: When I played full-time at Scottish Ballet, I had a solo piano work to perform featuring Poulenc. It was one of the most difficult works I encountered! Also here is a link to the wonderful Sir Kenneth McMillan’s Poulenc Pas de Deuxhttps://www.kennethmacmillan.com/poulenc-pas-de-deux
Tomorrow let’s listen to a bit of Art Tatum!
I am delighted to be hosting scores of some exceptional musicians who have contributed importantly to the world of music for dance. It’s not always easy to access tried and tested music that is appropriate for Free Class and not affiliated with Examination Syllabus. And so my first featured artist is Kim So Hyun. Her music is delicate, exquisite and sits in a jazz-influenced genre which resonates with my love of all things Gershwin!. Her Volume One score for class is available here https://www.artofclass.online/product/ballet-class-music-vol-1-by-kim-so-hyun/
I noticed over the past years that Dancers who retire (still in their 30’s or so) commonly used the Dancer’s Benevolent Fund to retrain in Massage and other related re-training associated with anatomy. However these days funds such as DanceFund help many artists move into photography and film. And here is the exceptional one…my great friend and ex-dancer from Scottish Ballet Glauco di Lieto who is now my WEBDESIGNER! What you see here is all his work. Oh. And a totally wonderful person! I know he hates publicity so here is his hidden face! Thanks,Glauco.