Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 441 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Dan, And he writes:
Hi Vidas, I noticed that you’d uploaded to YouTube, a version of Carillon of Westminster by Louis Vierne, where you’re playing it slowly. I know you normally do this, so people can transcribe what you’re doing, and eventually produce a print score with fingering and pedaling. This as well, may help me, as I learn things by ear here, due to being totally blind, and finding Braille music to be tedious, and slow. So along with helping people to transcribe stuff, I’d say what you’re doing with that, is also helpful to me too. Take care.
And then I asked Dan this question: What is the easiest way for you to learn music by ear? When you hear entire texture or separate hands and feet? Or even separate voices? And Dan replied,
What I usually like is to have separate hands and feet, and then entire texture to work with. That has worked well over the years for me. I’ll then take that and work on its parts separately to start out, then manuals only, then right hand and pedal, left hand and pedal, and then put things together.
What do you think, Ausra? First of all, could our videos be helpful to people who cannot see?
A: I guess, yes, when you record the music really slowly. I guess this might help.
V: And even if it’s faster music, it’s possible to slow down twice, by reducing the speed on YouTube.
A: Well yes, but then the key will change.
V: By an octave, exactly. Lower an octave. But some players, obviously not on YouTube, but some audio players have the possibility to reduce the speed, but to keep the pitch constant. Like VLS player, I guess, can do that.
A: Excellent. I didn’t know about it.
V: So what people can do is just download the mp3 file from any of our video, and then play it on the VLC player on their computer, and reduce the speed by keeping the pitch constant, and that way will be possible. I remember playing in one international organ festival in our Curonian peninsula on the Baltic Sea, and this is a resort spot, very wonderful place to visit in the summer especially. And I once played there continuo part on the small chest organ, continuo part from Bach’s cantatas, two cantatas, I think. And I was using original notation for continuo, without any chords spelled out, just numbers above the bass. And I supplied the chords by myself, like improvisation. And it wasn’t easy, so I got this YouTube recording of Bach cantata, and played it through VLC media player, by reducing the speed by half, but the pitch was constant. And it worked for me, you know, to master my chords playing and continuo playing together with orchestra this way at home.
V: For awhile, I didn’t do this all the time. Just maybe a few days. So, technology can be helpful today, even for these sorts of things. And then, you know, Dan says he like to have both, entire texture and separate texture for hands and feet. It’s very natural, I think, it’s like a normal practice procedure for everybody. Right, Ausra?
A: True. At least it should be.
V: Mm hm. When the piece is difficult, we subdivide the texture into separate voices and play them separately, and then combinations of parts. And that’s what Dan needs, and people who probably cannot see also appreciate as well. And then, of course, when they know the texture well, they are ready to play four part texture, or entire texture, and then in a slow tempo, obviously, at first, but videos can be helpful as well. Because, you see, Braille music is slow and tedious for him. I always thought that, you know, it’s a special system to be used for blind people, but today probably, there are more options and people can choose, and it’s not the fastest way.
A: Well, you know, I’m not blind, you know, obviously, but I can understand Dan, why it’s easier for him to listen and then to reproduce, you know, music, than comparing to Braille. Because you know, in Braille, you have to touch things to know what is written.
V: Exactly. And you have to have a special printer for that.
A: Well, yes, but that’s all the technicalities. But since Dan is a musician, it means you know, he has good pitch. Well-developed pitch. And I think it’s easier for musicians, you know, to learn by ear than by touching things.
V: Helmut Walcha, remember Walcha?
A: Walcha, the blind German organist and composer, yes. I don’t remember him, but I remember our professor, George Ritchie, talking about him, because he was his teacher.
V: In Germany.
V: And what did he do?
A: Well, he would ask his students to play, you know, one voice of the piece really slowly, and then he would memorize it, and then another voice. And in such a manner, he would learn the entire piece.
V: It was before the time of videos, and recordings, probably. Recordings were possible, but not maybe cassette recordings, maybe LP recordings, and that was impossible to record at home by your own equipment, you had to have industrial equipment for that. Or, the help of other people, who would play back a melody to you. Mm hm. Excellent. I wish the technology would be advanced enough that they could grab an audio file and then take it apart into separate tracks or voices. And they could do this with MIDI files. And MIDI file can be created by playing it on the synthesizer connected with your computer. And then you could have entire score, entire texture, and then separate parts, or any combination of parts if you want.
A: I guess, you know, since every human being, you know, has a different understanding of the world, because some of us are very visual. Some of us, you know, understand words with our ears. And some understand words with entire body. So I guess, you know, everybody has to choose what is the easier way for them to comprehend, to learn music.
V: It would be a good business model for organists who would like to focus and specialize for blind people, blind organists, for resources like that. Who would produce audio files – you don’t need videos for that, just audio – for separate voices, combinations of voices, and entire texture. And there are quite a few blind organists in the world, so that could be a niche and very helpful for people.
A: Maybe French are doing that, since we have such a long-lasting tradition of, you know, blind organists.
V: If they’re doing some, maybe, they are not doing this on the internet. I haven’t seen this yet.
A: Could be.
V: Yes. But even if Dan or people who could not see, would just take this audio file or video, and play back in a slow tempo, the entire texture, it’s possible to pick up separate voices, right, and develop your own musicality this way much better. You know, you’re like your own teacher this way. It’s not easy at first, because you have to hear inner voices. But with practice, probably people can develop this. At least, Dan is suggesting, between the lines, that it’s helpful. Right?
V: Okay guys, lots to think about. Please keep sending us your wonderful questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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