Vital Signs

I've had the good fortune this week of meeting and talking with the American pianist Nelson Ojeda Valdès, a fellow native of Los Angeles, California (which I don't come across too often here in Lisbon!) He's a friend of also-originally-from-LA pianist Raj Bhimani, who is also here in Lisbon rehearsing for upcoming concerts of Syrinx: XXII, so it's been a California-on-the-Tejo week for me!

Nelson, who is very active in New York as a performer, teacher and adjudicator, has a succinct way to refer to the two basic impulses of music, pulse and breath, calling them the "vital signs". He means that pulse and breath are just as necessary to music as they are to bodily survival; we performers should always strive to communicate these elements clearly to the listener, just as our bodies clearly need both pulse and breath to maintain life. 

Of course, pulse is fundamental—we all know the magic when music makes us tap our foot or want to dance along—and I always love to hear a non-wind-player talking about breathing in relation to music and phrasing. Of course, we flutists and wind players MUST breathe, but the bottom line is that the MUSIC must breathe (even Wagner, eventually…). Nelson's concept helps put the issue of breath on the right footing, as something good and desirable, rather than a necessary evil—I love it!

 Post-rehearsal R&R with pianists Raj Bhimani and Nelson Ojeda Valdès

Post-rehearsal R&R with pianists Raj Bhimani and Nelson Ojeda Valdès