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The Practice of MA

Zeos Greene

The German word Lied translates as song in English, which historically


has represented the combination of German Romantic poetry with music for
voice and piano. There have been many alterations to this model of Lied,
including a composition for solo clarinet by the Italian composer Luciano
Berio. His adaptation of the Lied form into a series of musical repetitions and
phrases without standard tonality or form is surprisingly captivating; the
music seems to flow from the clarinet in a natural form similar to spoken
words and phrases. As I took up the piece for my Jury performance in the
spring, the music presented me with new musical challenges. Most of the
classical music which I have played on clarinet has been written on sheet
music with a certain key and time signature, including many interpretation
notes on the written music. The challenge with this form of music is to follow
the written interpretation while also developing an individual sound and
character for the piece. While the Lied is similar to this style of practice, it
requires a different mindset to capture the musical gestures and phrasing.
In order to become more intimate with the written music, I used the
Japanese concept of MA to frame my understanding of the sound and

space created by my clarinet. In English the word translates as gap or


space, meaning the space that exists in-between objects in space and
time. It is highly involved with experience, as this space that exists between
things comes from a human perspective and interpretation. This concept
works particularly well with the Lied because of how Berio plays with the
placing of notes in relation to each other as well as in space. The piece is
filled with extended notes and rests which create a kind of negative space
themselves, but also extremely quick note repetitions which leave very little
empty sonic space. MA is important because of how space fluctuates
throughout the piece, creating music in the gaps and pauses both small and
large. The concept of space also relates highly to time with MA, thinking
about how notes and sounds exist moving through space. This has helped
with my tendency to emphasize the metric structure of music instead of the
horizontal movement of the notes through space similar to water. Through
studying this concept of negative space, I have come to understand that the
lack of sound is just important as sound itself in music, in the framework of
space and time both exist together to create meaningful expression of the
music. I have found playing this new musical piece to be helpful for both my
musicality and technique on the clarinet, and the concept of MA was
essential to my understanding of the piece. I will continue to use this method
of understanding sound and space on future clarinet projects, working to
develop my individual voice on the clarinet.