Modernizing Practice Paradigms for New Music

The author examines how new music scores with extended playing techniques call for new practice structures. YouTube access to basic instructional videos and the streaming of sound files allows musicians today to learn easily and independently. Yet, the trailblazers in new music tackled new scores without these aids; they used imagination, experimentation and tenacity. Conscious use of both learning modalities can augment ideas of practice and performance preparation; expanding new music’s reach while preserving its fire.Practice is differentiated between the quick learning for an upcoming performance and the transformative learning that new music offers. Periodization theory from sport science provides a pedagogical framework for building both mental and physical stamina leading to peak performance.


Inclusion and Excellence Through Periodisation and Democratisation of a Children’s Choir

Art in Motion, Hochschule für Musik und Theater München, 2016

Notable talent at any one point in time in a child’s life is not a predictor of future success, and even less so, a predictor of musical enjoyment. However, many pedagogical programs, through their design, reinforce a belief in a fixed-ability mindset. Typical children’s choir programs are designed to promote either excellence or inclusion. It is rare for a program to do both. This pedagogical plan was inspired by periodization from sport science. Periodization differentiates between rehearsal intensity and rehearsal frequency and systematically applies them in order to peak for performance.

By greatly varying the rehearsals, this model was able to dispel myths that talent defines the future and that music is only for those who can handle the pressure. Enrolment increased by 51,6%, including both older and younger children as well as children with special needs. Most notable was that this inclusive choir increased their collaborations with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and other organisations of similar stature in town.

The program eliminated qualifying auditions for children, and instead, favoured a pure desire to sing and a strong commitment to the rehearsal schedule. The rehearsal schedule followed periodization recommendations for athletes including elements of multi-lateral training and tapering. Rehearsal intensity varied greatly and became responsive, performance frequency was increased and yet rehearsal schedules were tapered off when approaching the end-of-year staged performance. Children were frequently put “on the spot” in an informal way, rather than being “in the spotlight” for the first time in a make-or- break moment during a staged production

experimentation and tenacity. Conscious use of both learning modalities can augment ideas of practice and performance preparation; expanding new music’s reach while preserving its fire.
Practice is differentiated between the quick learning for an upcoming performance and the transformative learning that new music offers. Periodization theory from sport science provides a pedagogical framework for building both mental and physical stamina leading to peak performance.


Fit to Play: The fitness effect on physically challenging flute repertoire

Medical Problems of Performing Artists, Jan 1, 2011

This case study was done to determine whether physical fitness plays a part in performing flute repertoire. Most repertoire allows performers the choice of where to breathe. However, there exists a brute repertoire where breathing is prescribed by the composer, which poses physical challenges for performers. The author contrasted pieces from traditional repertoire with Heinz Holliger (t)air(e), which requires passages of breath-holding and measured inhalations. The author was tested for cardiovascular fitness (VO2max) and corresponded these levels to pulse rates while playing at baseline and 6 months after undertaking a physical fitness program. After the exercise program, expertise with standard repertoire combined with the unmeasured variables of resonance, openness of the chest and oral cavities, embouchure size, and air speed saw little improvement with increased fitness levels. However, when air regulation is out of the performer's control, the effect of cardiovascular training brought the repertoire into the same range of difficulty as the standard repertoire.


Breath holding and heightened arousal: Composing anxiety or intensity?

Inhaling while playing and passages of breath holding and during a piece cause a racing heart, an increase in blood pressure and a physical sense of emergency. Usually, such sensations are indicative of an increase in adrenalin and/or performance anxiety. These physical symptoms for a flutist performing Heinz Holliger’s (t)air(e) should not be avoided, however. Learning a piece where silence and extreme self-control are written for dramatic effect allows a performer to experience heightened physical arousal during performance in the context of achieving an artistic goal. The symptoms therefore lose their more common negative associations. This can then be used as a pedagogical tool in building a comfort level with increases in heart rate, and breathlessness while performing.


Issues of stamina in modern music: Answers from sport science

Department of Instrumental and M. M. Marin, M. Knoche, & R. Parncutt (Eds.)Proceedings of the First International Conference of Students of Systematic Musicology (SysMus08)Graz, Austria, 14-15 November 2008


As composers extend the boundaries of music, performers are stretched beyond their limits. Thiscreates a chasm between those who are able (at least temporarily) to cope with these new demands and those whoare not. There are some things that one may personally risk, but cannot responsibly teach.


A survey done among university flute majors showed that only 40% had any experience with any new musicand of those, 0% had any experience with works of extreme complexity. Even professional new music specialistsreference difficulty with stamina in performing these complex works. Discussions about over-practicing abound amongpedagogues, but solutions have not been tested or proven. In new music, demands on breath control are oftenexcessive. To date, a teaching method that covers such issues has not been developed. Athletes have known for yearshow to train themselves. Why don’t musicians?

Main contribution.

The author applies knowledge gained from courses in Periodization Training taken in conjunctionwith coaching certification programs at the University of Delaware. This medically based theory stemming fromGeneral Adaptation Syndrome of Hans Selye has been modified by sports scientists since the 1950’s. It has beenapplied to numerous sport disciplines and the theory itself remains the training standard. In short, periodizing atraining program involves systematically alternating sport-specific practice with multi-lateral training and rest tomaximize efforts while minimizing the risk of overuse and fatigue. The author applies these principles to modern musicwith regard to developing breath capacity and stamina.



The dissertation begins by surveying university flute students and their teachers about their experiences with extended techniques. Differences in approach, from Boulez to jazz, are correlated with the students’ partiality towards new music. The lack of new music studied in university programs lies in the complexity and difficulty of the repertoire. Complex works are seldom played. 

The author identifies causes and finds solutions to this problem. Tools to encourage greater involvement in new music are developed. Through a newly graded repertoire list, flutists have access to modern works in every level of flute study. Practical solutions for studying new scores are also given. Using extended techniques to reframe and solve common technical problems offers new motivation to learn contemporary repertoire. 

Regarding extended techniques themselves, the author develops a study program stemming from the teaching methods of Robert Dick and Carin Levine. This program builds on the acoustical similarities of each technique to allow greater continuity in teaching plans. The progression teaches body awareness by emphasizing projection of sound through greater physical energy. The final section highlights a shortcoming in the pedagogy thus far. In works of the extreme complexity, demands of breath control are often excessive. Stamina building has been a neglected topic. (t)air(e) (1980-83) for solo flute by Heinz Holliger  is used to illustrate such challenges. Using the methodology of periodization training for athletes, the author provides a cogent solution for these deficits.  

In conclusion, new teaching tools animate repertoire largely inaccessible in traditional studios.


Pedagogical Evaluation

Teaching practice was evaluated with regard to democratic teaching techniques and classroom management. The result is a clearer representation of the mission statement during classes and better communication with school leadership. Superar, an initiative of the Vienna Boys Choir, The Vienna Konzerthaus and Caritas, offers high quality music instruction, free of charge, to students without other access to the arts.

Superar Vienna, 2017