The Spectrum of Expressive Touches
By Peter Coraggio
Illustrated by Jon. J. Murakami
Neil A. Kjos Music Company, Publisher
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Sample Page from the book:
"BEAUTIFUL TONE AND THE EXPRESSIVE MUSICAL TOUCHES"
Every sport or disciplined physical activity has its basic positions and postures which have evolved over numerous years by thousands of participants. The novice begins with the basic stance and movements and develops individual technique through practice. Because of each player's unique physical nature and personality, performers must search for personal answers to performance problems. What appears to work today is bound to be revised and further refined tomorrow. The artist can never cease striving for perfection.
Just as an artist must have mastery over the brush and combination of colors, pianists must understand the basic material with which they work - the expressive touches (articulations). Pianists must not only be able to recognize the expressive signs in the score and know what each represents, but also be sensitive to the influence the instructions may have on the music in the context of the musical moment. Performers must be able to smoothly evolve from one touch to another and be able to combine the touches in a wide palette of expressive possibilities.
Musical notation is not an exact science, although fidelity to the notation is where musical interpretation begins. There can never be only one definitive interpretation of any of the expressive touches. Although the touches may be isolated for practice and study, they are seldom found individually in the pure forms in actual performance. Composers select the note values, dynamic indications, and the expressive touches which are nearest to the desired musical expression. The pianist must then adapt these elements to the character of the music.
Before the 18th century, music was printed with few, if any, expressive markings. It was not necessary to show every legato or staccato since composers wrote mostly for experienced musicians who knew the performance style of the times. Notation for expressive articulations has evolved over the past two hundred years. Since the marks on the page may have different meanings for different periods of musical history, the interpretation of the score must be done with the awareness and knowledge of historical style and tradition and, above all, good musical taste.