Artistic research / Contemporary Music

SOMATIC STUDIES FOR PIANO

somatic

adjective   MEDICAL   specialized

UK /səˈmæt.ɪk/ US /səˈmæt.ɪk/

relating to the body as opposed to the mind.

INTRODUCTION

To learn how to play an instrument, it’s a long life process. The practice shapes through the years by assimilating knowledge at different levels. Each piece of music, each improvisation requires a specific technique, a specific attention, a specific listening. It took me many years of practice to learn how to listen. It took me many years of practice to learn how to be aware of my body.

I used to play piano many hours during my adolescence, it was my favourite activity. At some point I got bad back problems. I was recommended to take yoga and tai-chi lessons, so I did. Those were my first encounters with my body, learning how to breath, how to feel the muscles, how to balance. 

In 2014, by chance, I started to practice contact improvisation, an improvised dance technique that uses sharing weight as fundament. This practice opened up the possibility to communicate my body with other bodies and the space. 2Out of some improvisation session I started to experiment those physical sensations while playing piano. I began to dance with the piano, to explore it as an object in space. This experience changed my musical practice. It was a revolution in my listening and my body. 

Performed by Carolina Santiago

During those years I had the chance to collaborate in many dance projects, working hand in hand with dancers and choreographers and learning their compositional tools. The dance practice is very situated, defined by the bodies of the dancers, by the space. They learn the choreography by motion, not by notation (in the traditional sense), therefore the memory is in the body. I got very captivated by the possibility to understand music notation as a choreography. 

In the last years I practiced body techniques such as Body Mind Centering and Feldenkrais. Those methods allowed me to work with deep corporal sensations and translate them into my piano practice. Therefore I started to use physical gesture as composition element, decentering the focus from the front (the score, the vision, the brain, the fingers), to the sphere (the whole body, the organs, the peripersonal space). 

There is a direct transference during the piano playing between the body and sound, the quality of the sound and physical movement which produces it is inseparable. The composition of the ‘Somatic Studies for Piano’ is an approach to embody music content creating a music notation. That is to integrate the evocative and suggestive power of corporal sensation as indication for the performance in order to align attention, intention and sensation.

Performed by Carolina Santiago

NOTES FOR THE PERFORMANCE

What happens between the notes? 

These pieces are ‘studies’ because they intend to explore specific basic physical elements in the piano playing such as gravity, antigravity, repetition, etc. The aim is to cultivate awareness of the body sensations during the practice, therefore the goal is the process, not the result. Before and during your study try to breath deep and connect with your bodily presence. Feel your feet connected to the ground, your hips rooted in the chair and your upper body flexible and expanded. Immerse yourself in the feeling of the movement. Give yourself the chance to explore it deeply, slowly. The difficulty of the scores is not in the notes but in having a high level of corporeal consciousness. Therefore it’s about what happens between the notes, how one enters and exits the key.