Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Yo-Yo Ma Bach Suites

My teacher let me borrow a 2 disc CD of The Cello Suites Yo-Yo Ma Inspired By Bach and the Great Cellists by Margaret Campbell after I requested that during the summer I wanted to learn more about cello history, cellists, etc. and how to improve my intonation.

Assignment: read the book and listen to the CD for phrasing to familiarize myself with the Bach Suites. From my understanding, phrasing is where one section starts and the other begins. I guess the more familiar I am with important cello pieces, the more I can recognize when something doesn’t sound “right.”

"The six Bach Suites are considered by many to be the most challenging pieces in the solo repertoire." I'm definitely not at the skill level to play this, but I'm sure listening to this sooner than later will help my musicality and understanding since I wasn't exposed to classical music when I was younger (and didn't like listening to it *gasp*) until I started playing the cello.

I listened to the CD for a couple of weeks, and basically thought, “Yep… sounds good…its Yo-Yo Ma! Now what?”

A week later, I was doing my usual YouTubing about.... and found Yo-Yo Ma's Bach Suites and came across other master cellists playing the suites via the recommended viewing list. I had an “ah-ha” moment - that’s what he meant by phrasing!!! …doh!

As I listened to each master cellist play, I was surprised how the interpretation from each cellist was so different – actually I was more surprised I could tell at all!! Maybe listening to Yo-Yo Ma every day for the last two weeks made it easier for me to distinguish the difference.

Below are links of cellists playing Bach Suite 1 Prelude:

I should probably discuss the differences I perceived from each cellist, but this blog is getting too long again! Why can't I keep my blogs nice and short?

Adam also suggested that I follow along as I listened to the suites, which I have yet to do. Here's a website to download the Bach Suites for cello in PDF for free:

However, I did the read-along for the Suzuki songs and this has helped me with recognizing how a note is played. This is a no-brainer: we initially learn to read by following along when our parents read to us before bedtime, or in school when we were first taught to read.

Why didn't I apply this before? It's almost so simple and basic that I almost thought it was too ridicules to try (or maybe I thought I would feel ridicules trying this)! I guess we use this "follow-along" learning method for a reason - because it's a tried and tested method. Although I should probably look up the mechanism that allows this to work...

I even started singing along with the Suzuki songs "da daaaa da daaa." I'm sure my singing is off key, but still, I can already tell that it's working because I can flip to any of the songs in the Suzuki book or other beginner method books and "sound out" how I think the song is played...albeit off tune.

TIP OF THE DAY: Read along with the notes as you listen to the piece being played.

Other cool factoids I came across: 
I read through the CD cover and learned that Yo-Yo Ma had learned the Bach Suites when he was four years old by learning two measures at a time!! ...hhmmmm…I wonder if I should do this!!!  J

Some other tidbits from the CD cover: each collaboration lasted for about 2 years with each artist:
  • First Suite: Yo-Yo Ma and the garden designer Julie Moir Messervy & explored themes related to Nature
  • Second Suite : Yo-Yo with director Francois Girard explored daring spaces and perspedctive in the work of Piranesi
  • Third Suite: Mark Morris choreopgraphed a new dance
  • Fourth Suite: Director Adam Egoyan created a film in which music is the link between human characters
  • Fifth Suite: Kabuki actor Tamasaburo Bando explored themes of pathos and transcendence
  • Sixth Suite: ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean skaed a celebratory cosmic dance 
It was interesting to watch the YouTube videos after reading through the CD jacket - it makes more sense why he used specific images. Actually, I should probably rent the entire DVD instead of watching it on YouTube because its supposed to have more information and a biography...

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