Musical Breathing

22/04/12 09:52

The Art of Breathing is pretty much at the heart of music making, on the performance and technical levels - whatever instrument you play.

Much has been documented about the physical aspects of breathing, but I would prefer to leave this to the side and concentrate on the emotional and aesthetic side of breathing as I believe that, armed  with the right attitude,  we are more likely to find an expressive way of playing and a more natural relationship with the instrument.

The breath in music is a truly wondrous moment…if timed to perfection, it empowers and lifts what we are giving to a truly powerful dimension. A few points to ponder:

Spaces in the Music
The moments between phrases (silences) are highly charged emotional milestones. Rushing these moments robs the listener of the space he/she needs in order to digest and put in perspective everything they are hearing. In this ‘pregnant’ silence, the question and thirst for the next phrase are born…rushing into the next phrase prematurely often results in lost expressive opportunities, while also leading to a rushed (and therefore tight) breath. 

Staying Relaxed
One of the most common pieces of advice given is to ‘keep the throat open and relaxed’ and to ‘breath deeply’…but this is simply not going to be possible if we don’t give ourselves enough time. Of course we must strive to play with our colleagues - but there is a great deal of flexibility possible, if we know exactly why and how we want/need to breathe….taking this time (it is never given!) is of paramount importance. 

The Expressive Power of Silence
It has been said many times before: silence is often more powerful than the sound or words we use…silence can be deafening. Silence is not ‘nothing’…it is the root of sound…it is the awakening of our creative desire. Without silence, our music is born premature and without concept. 

I often tell my students: When you come to breathe, think ‘recover’ not ‘breathe’. If your aim is to fully recover your energy at the point of breath, you will naturally take the time needed to fully recover your energy. Of course this can be overdone….but we often have far more time at our disposal, than we think we do.