Jumping Between Genres

Jumping Between Genres

Tackling the contemporary vs classical genre gap. 

Ben Opie
Melbourne, Australia

Jumping Between Genres

Tackling the contemporary vs classical genre gap. 

Question:

Hi Ben,

I know that you play hugely diverse repertoire, across a wide range of ensembles and styles, and I was wondering how your approach to different pieces changes?

I am currently playing a lot of contemporary oboe repertoire, and I am struggling with the process of learning new techniques required for the rep, as well as the notes - often atonal and patterns that I am not used to - and it has become quite overwhelming!

I almost feel like my playing has been split into two separate branches, one of note learning and one of technique learning, and I am not quite sure how to mesh these back into a piece of music!

Any tips?

Answer:

I do find it quite challenging jumping between genres and styles, especially on a day to day basis. I'm about to do a concert of arrangements of Bach with contemporary Australian music mixed in at the Athenaeum Library, then next week, a piece for violin, oboe, electronics, guitar, percussion and double bass at BIFEM. It's tricky but it is a trainable skill to compartmentalize these things, especially in your practice sessions.

I try to be as organized as possible in my practice, I'll dedicate a session to one specific project so I can really get my head into that world, then after a break and a relocate (even if it's just facing the music stand in a different direction... or taking your shoes off or something!) I can then re-focus and get started on the next session / project. Play - Break - Relocate!

Putting contemporary techniques to musical use has become an addiction for me, I'm hooked on the challenge! From a strategic approach, thinking about it like this could be a way for you to get excited about it again!

From a practical side, I've always found putting the instrument down to be the first step to success! A lot of the time, if I have a musical goal that is really clear in my head, the technical aspects intrinsically work towards that same goal. To do this, it takes a lot of patience, trust and quiet sitting with scores- if you can make some really conclusive decisions about how you are going to play a piece, the battle is half won. The next step for me is to employ those decisions in the piece at an under-tempo pace, then plan how many weeks until the performance and speed it up accordingly.

You also mentioned learning atonal and unfamiliar patterns- the most efficient way of learning new patterns for me is to work backwards. Start from the last note in a phrase and just add one note at a time until you've reached the beginning. That might help in training the muscle memory for unfamiliar patterns!

Thoughts from oboe-wan-benopie

Photo by Roman Ponomariov & Cam Opie