Movement Quality and Music-Making Practice
On the Relationship between the Feldenkrais Method® and Musical Improvisation
Keywords:vocal and instrumental pedagogy, improvisation, Feldenkrais Method, quality of movement, modes of action, interpretation, qualitative research, experimental research, heuristic methods
When making music, quality of movement and musical outcome are closely connected. The quality of movement in improvisational play is different from that during the interpretation of composed works. The starting point for this study was that the physical sensations of improvising musicians resembled those reported by people who participated in Feldenkrais Method lessons. Musicians interpreting composed works, on the other hand, found it difficult to apply what they had learned in Feldenkrais Method lessons to their instrumental play. These observations led to the following research questions:
- Can we identify specific modes of action that are important for improvising music?
- Do musicians’ improvisational modes of action and quality of movement mutually influence each other?
- Are certain modes of action that are beneficial to improvisational play cultivated through the Feldenkrais Method?
The research design used in this study is based on the qualitative heuristic approach with additional principles borrowed from artistic research. Methodological formats include research talks, introspection, and qualitative experiments. Furthermore, a model was developed that describes improvisation as ‘autopoiesis’ in the present.
The research process yielded the following results:
- The ‘autopoietic’ system marks the conditions for improvisation. Besides the musician, communication with other players and the resulting music are also part of the process. The musician's perception brings all these elements together; mental issues like trying to avoid mistakes or control musical developments weaken the improvisational process.
- When comparing the improvisational mode of action with the Feldenkrais Method, it becomes apparent that the third research question posed above can be answered with yes: on a superordinate level, the Feldenkrais Method does indeed cultivate modes of action beneficial to improvisation. Criteria for an improvisational quality of movement can be deduced from the Feldenkrais Method.
- The variations of physical movement conducted in 49 experiments led to changes in improvisational technique. The subjects increasingly succeeded in discarding retrospection and prospection, and found new paths in the present.
- The finding that quality of movement and musical outcome always influence each other in general, even when interpreting composed works, should inspire efforts to incorporate basic principles of improvisation into the way students are taught to play an instrument, thus enriching the interpretation of classical music, in which control is frequently overemphasized.
This article is an English translation of the original German article, Bewegungsqualität und Musizierpraxis: Zum Verhältnis von Feldenkrais-Methode® und musikalischer Improvisation, which was published in Volume 6 (2018-2019) of this journal.