Documentation Project: preparing music for performance

Reflection on my Documentation Project Proposal

Hoffnungs cartoons: closer to reality than you might think!

I’ve been reading some of Sandy Hutchison’s¹ journal entries lately, and spurred on by the approaching deadline for all my Integrative Studies work (which is 13th May), I am trying to reflect on the process of taking a fresh, unlearnt piece and preparing it for the concert platform. This is the subject of my ‘Documentation Project’ described in the course literature as ‘a collection of materials derived from an aspect of your work this year’. I handed in a proposal for this before Christmas, so I can’t really remember what I said I was going to base it on exactly…

To refresh my memory, here’s the proposal I just dug out (if you can use that expression when searching through computer files!)

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MMus Integrative Studies

Documentation Project Proposal 15.12.10

For my solo recital in May, I will be preparing Brahms Sonata in Eb Op. 120 No 1 for Viola and Piano. In order to prepare for this, I will have lessons on each movement of the piece with my teacher, have sessions with my pianist (Hester Dickson), and do private solo practice. I will also have some coaching from my teacher in my sessions with Hester, and perform some of the movements in performance classes. It is this variety of different preparation methods that I hope to document for my project, using sound recordings.

I will use the following to document the preparation process:

  • Recordings of my lessons on the piece
  • Recordings of sessions with Hester
  • Recordings of solo practice – eg successful practice and frustrations
  • Recordings of performance classes

Alongside these recordings which will be dated chronologically, I will write a brief commentary on the main issues raised by each recording or how each fits into my overall learning progression, and a broader reflection on my preparation process as shown by this material. Hopefully this will help me to identify and clarify the different ways in which I prepare a piece for performance, whether they are good or bad, and in the future use this to improve my preparation skills.


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Aha, now I remember… I knew that it was focussed specifically on the Brahms but forgot the details.

Now, on reflection (if you’ll pardon the pun) and through experience of this year’s work, my focus in the proposal on one specific piece (ie Brahms Eb Sonata) was too narrow, as I now have decided that I want to document my approach to preparing pieces for performance as a whole, which means not homing in on one specific composer and using a variety of different pieces and performance situations (i.e.solo/chamber/orchestral). So through the terms I have been keeping photocopies of my viola scores and markings on them as they develop and my own experience as a player and performer has developed. It is this cumulative process of learning to ‘become better’ through preparation that I now wish to focus on.

The next step is for me to collect all the photocopies/pictures ²of pieces I have accumulated over the last 7 months, put them in some sort of coherent order and work out what each says about my approach to documenting my practice as a viola player.

Now, where did I put them all again?  😀

¹ The RSAMD’s Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow

² I find the easiest way to document something when I’m in a hurry is to take a photo of it; this works well with sheet music if the light is ok and you have the flash off

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