Impressions, series 5

The lovely French word “technique,” drawn into the English language by Mr Coleridge, inspires both thoughtfulness from Jenna and ambivalence from Masha, leaving me find a third way.

Technique seems to be that subtle mastery of the technical aspects of craft which distinguishes one artist from another. This is, I suspect, a nonsensical statement and perhaps tautological. What I really mean is I’ve connected the word with an absurd image of Rubens holding a brush and another of a young Leonardo looking simply morose. But really when I think about technique I think about playing the piano.

There is, of course, the fascinating study of Glenn Gould’s two interpretations of Bach’s Goldberg Variations—about which some of my readers know a great deal more than I do, and may chime in with enlightenment if they wish (you know who you are, Eric).

But of course there’s a wonderful conflation of all kinds of technique—pacing and performance and musical interpretation and writing—in what follows. What you will see is the strength and beauty of the art that can be achieved when a consummate master of technique—in fact,
a genius—uses his ability for good.

After that, I’m not sure what more could be said.

[UPDATE: Well, the Victor Borge video I posted turns out to be illegal, and the YouTube account that was hosting it has been shut down because of copyright infringement. Despite its drawing the sting of this post, I have to say I approve. To make up for it, here’s a different video that’s quite legal. And it’s about…something.]

3 thoughts on “technique

  1. I largely agree that “Technique seems to be that subtle mastery of the technical aspects of craft which distinguishes one artist from another,” but what you go on to discuss as “technique,” Mr. Pond, I have always thought of as “style.”

    I had played violin as a child, and the teacher would get annoyed sometimes that I was trying to play my own style (based on listening to the music rather than reading the sheet music) without having first mastered the techniques involved in playing. Now that I’m older, I think he was right that I needed to master specific techniques first, so that I would have a solid base on which to build my own style (or way of interpeting how it was to be played, paced, infused with emotion, etc.). I also used to compete in gymnastics and saw a parallel to music. There is a precise technique to doing a back handspring, which can look mechanical and is technically accurate, but then one builds a unique style on top of that. It’s the combination of superb technique & inimitable style that gets the 10 (in gymnastics).

    So I guess that I associate “technique” with a note-for-note precision, or with getting down cross-hatch shading in drawing, or knit-one-pearl-two, or bend-the-knees-push-off-while arching-backwards, etc. (I think this is similar to Jenna’s view.) Style seems to get layed on top of precision, kind of like jazz improv gets layed on top of classical training.

    And thank you for the video!

  2. Apparently one more thing to be said is, “This video is no longer available because the YouTube account has been terminated…” :-/

  3. Ahaha, drat. I did wonder about that briefly, and I have to say I approve of stopping copyright infringement. I’ll try to do something tangential to make up for it. Meanwhile, I’ve changed the video to something comfortably legal. Many apologies. For those of you who got to see the original–lucky you. 🙂

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