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Creativity and cadenzas in the studio.

"Of all the arts, music is often taught in the least creative way. At every level, kindergarten through graduate school, music is presented to students as a preexisting body of literature with which the student must become familiar.... Seldom if ever are students invited to use the medium of sound to fashion their own totally original musical expressions." (1)

--Charles Fowler

Reading Charles Fowler's words, I was struck both with a sense of their accuracy and my own shortcoming as a studio teacher who comfortably pursued the conventional approach he criticized. Fowler's words made me realize that, in a way, I was "a part of the problem, not part of the solution." I was determined to find ways to address Fowler's criticism in my own teaching.

The first stage in my quest for self-reform relied heavily on a more analytical approach to the music and sought more consistently to draw attention to the underlying harmonic structure of the music under study. This obviously possesses a direct impact on the ability to interpret the music effectively, but the results varied according to the individual student's previous theoretical knowledge, as one might expect. Even so, I found that college students with knowledge of theory often found it difficult to extrapolate the harmonic implications of a single melodic line in an etude--my instrument, the horn, being monophonic. The use of accompanied or chamber literature aided only slightly, for I discovered, as so many teachers have done, that our traditional approach to music theory instruction tends to create a very "vertical" understanding of music that can inhibit a student's perception of the horizontal extension of harmony. The use of the full score aided in demonstrating this horizontal aspect, but often proved too time-consuming for the limited time of the private lesson.

More experienced teachers of younger students will no doubt smile at my naive initial attempts to provide young teenagers with a "crash course" in theory in the effort to bring them to a deeper understanding of the music. With more or less "badgering" from me, one or two of them would complete their introductory theory workbook assignments, but this was clearly a long-term approach to an immediate need. I still use the workbooks with a small number of students of more academic inclination, but eventually realized that a more effective method had long been obvious had I only noticed it.

Like many horn teachers, I use movements from Mozart's four concertos both as "coming of age" solo pieces for younger students and again in early college study as stylistic "journeyman" pieces. Later-high-school students usually work through the study of one or more complete concertos, and college students often perform an entire concerto at some time in their undergraduate careers. These works introduce the student to the cadenza and the Eingang (hereafter Entrance) that the works often require. (2) I may well be justly criticized for having in the past personally written out these improvised passages for younger students and especially for allowing college students to use those supplied by the various editors. Both the cadenza and Entrance serve to introduce the student both to harmonic implications in a horizontal melodic line and to the first step in independent creativity, providing an opportunity for a very valuable sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

The Entrance presents a particularly fine opportunity to introduce a young student to independent creativity. A short, non-thematic "improvised" passage based on the dominant-seventh harmony, the Entrance typically serves as a flourish that reintroduces the main theme of a rondo movement. (3) With college students I can explain the underlying theory more specifically; with younger students I allude to it more generally and focus their attention on the four pitches of the chord. To both I explain that they should consider the pitches a framework that they are to connect through their own invention using scale passages and arpeggios. The younger students are a familiar with these terms from previous study. They must create a short passage in an improvisatory style that extends for the equivalent of three or four measures. College students usually produce a satisfactory attempt by the next lesson. Younger students typically require more help, which I provide by suggesting possibilities while avoiding dictating specifics. By the end of two or three lessons they usually present an acceptable Entrance.

For college students, this simple assignment not only begins to move theory out of the realm of Roman numeral analysis and into the world of living music, but is also an important step in becoming more active participants in the interpretation of the music. It begins to break down the barrier to independent creativity that traditional training can sometimes erect and that can induce them to see themselves as the passive recipients of the teacher's instructions. The training of effective professionals depends on our ability to involve the students in active participation as early and often as possible in their training.

I find that younger students receive from this experience a sense of accomplishment and gratification that older musicians might erroneously regard as disproportionate to the product. It is important for us to try to remember what it is like to be 14 years old in a world controlled on all sides by the mysterious forces of adults. Confronted with a problem, they have produced their own solution--one that results not from finding the "right answer" in a textbook, but from their own personal creativity.

At a certain subsequent stage of development, the student will be ready to attempt a simple cadenza. I find that D.G. Turk's rules for cadenzas are an excellent and very useful formulation. (4) Briefly summarized, Turk's 10 rules are:

* The cadenza must be appropriate to the feeling of the composition.

* It must be consistent with the character of the composition and not introduce intentional difficulties for their own sake.

* It should not be too long.

* Modulations to remote keys should be avoided or used only with great care and must never proceed to a key foreign to the composition.

* Introduce only enough of the unexpected and striking to create diversity.

* Do not introduce too often an idea in the same or in a different key.

* Resolve all dissonances properly.

* The cadenza does not need to be learned (for example, learned, scholarly) but should exhibit wit and richness of thought.

* Vary the tempo to create the sense of an improvisation.

* Work out the cadenza carefully in advance and practice it carefully so it will sound improvised.

Among his own comments on proper cadenzas J.J. Quantz provides some additional useful points:

* Choose short statements of the most pleasing ideas in the movement.

* Do not use too many ideas.

* A short cadenza should not modulate.

* Do not tire the ear by too many repetitions of a figure.

Admittedly, these instructions refer to the practice of the latter half of the 18th century, but I find their direct simplicity and implicit functional tonality the best starting point for students who are often undertaking their first independent attempt at composition. The rules serve well for cadenza writing, up to the time when the cadenza becomes a part of the composition deliberately provided by the composer. Adherence to the rules and their good dramatic sense might also preserve many a performer from "tiring the ear" of the audience.

For the initial attempt at writing a cadenza, I ask students to select two melodic ideas, contrasting if possible, and help them identify an appropriate and usable motive if necessary. (5) According to the fairly simple guidelines that the authorities describe, the cadenza should open with "passage work," non-thematic material based on scales or arpeggios, which leads into the statement of the first melodic motive. (6) This motive can be developed by the simple means of sequence or restatement with contrasting dynamics or articulations. For the first effort, it is sometimes easier for the young student to select a second motive also in the tonic so as to avoid modulation. (7) More passage work leads from the first to the second motive and then to a brief passage culminating in the cadential trill. At a later date, depending on the student's development, a modulation to a contrasting key and corresponding motivic development can be added fairly easily.

College-level students readily recognize the need for some harmonic diversity in a cadenza of any substantial length. A teacher may also wish to use the cadenza to introduce more advanced younger students to the concept of modulation. Quantz makes some useful comments on simple modulation and the introduction of chromatic alterations for expressive purposes. (8) His suggestion that modulations are readily achieved through the leap of an augmented fourth or a diminished fifth is particularly simple and usable, as for example in the key of C major leaping from C to F-sharp to serve as the leading tone of the dominant G as a new key. The parallel minor, or major, is readily accessible by the standard alteration of the third of a tonic arpeggio. A careful use of "real" sequence is also a simple and effective means, so long as the student takes care not to modulate to a key too foreign.

Students should remember that modulations to keys beyond those found in the composition are prohibited in the 18th-century sources. For later compositions, more remote modulations and more extreme chromaticism are possible but should be appraised for suitability within the context of the individual composition.

The composition of a cadenza introduces an excellent opportunity to discuss the basic harmonic principles that form the foundation of the cadenza. These should already be familiar to college students but must be presented simply enough for younger students, perhaps simply by an allusion to the different keys of the main melodies. Although college students are usually familiar with the harmonic theory, they have often never really considered how it is actually employed in music. For them, this provides an occasion for further elaboration of the concepts of tonal centers and modulations, which induces them to think increasingly about harmony in its horizontal extension.

The virtue of using the Entrance and cadenza as a first introduction to composition is that it gives the student a feeling of support in the creative endeavor. The simplicity and brevity of the Entrance present a manageable task with specific rules. The more flexible cadenza, while providing more scope for individual creativity, also possesses a clear structure and depends on either preexisting material or types of passage work already familiar to the player from etudes. Even so, a frequent reaction from the student is "I can't do that!" More common with younger players, the response does, however, arise even from college students. With younger students, this reaction probably comes from their age and the inclination to passivity that their dependency on parents and teachers induces. It is, thus, often necessary to give these younger players a little "moral" support, tutoring them a little more in their first attempt. The confidence gained from one or two attempts starts them along the psychological path from dependent student to thoughtful performer, and perhaps is also a small step along the path from the dependence of childhood to the responsibility of an adult.

There are many ways to follow up these more structured attempts at creative expression. Younger students are usually receptive to such tasks as composing their own melody and even "picking out" an accompaniment for it. Playing these with the teacher is a gratifying experience for both. College students are usually receptive to the idea of composing a simple duet, a melody with a basic accompaniment derived from the training that they typically receive in music theory and keyboard skills classes. A very suitable project is to have the college student compose an etude that addresses a particular technical difficulty under current study.

The benefits of incorporating even this modest degree of creativity into the studio lesson are considerable. Younger students gain a first glimpse of the harmonic nature of music, while older students begin to move from a static conception of harmony to a more dynamic one. College students also gain techniques and experience valuable for their own future careers. Both acquire insights into the inherently cooperative effort between composer and performer necessary to realize a musical composition in performance. This insight in turn can initiate the transformation of the student from a passive "reproducer" to an active interpreter.

Beyond the impact on the student musician, and especially on the younger student, this small accomplishment in individual creativity can stimulate or further the process of "creating" a thoughtful individual with an active and creative, rather than a passive and dependent, attitude toward life. For us, the benefit is that we have aided in the process of "creating" more knowledgeable musicians better capable of carrying forth the practice of the art and ensuring its survival in difficult times.

Only a few weeks ago a middle-school student of mine performed in a public recital his first personally composed Entrance for a Mozart rondo. The first thing he said to me after his performance was to call my attention to how he had played his own contribution. Seemingly small things can often deservedly rank as major accomplishments that bring great satisfaction; and it is sometimes such small


(1.) Charles Fowler, Strong Arts, Strong Schools (New York: Oxford University, 1996), 124.

(2.) For convenience I will use the capitalized translation Entrance as a substitute for the German Eingang. The first movements of the third and fourth concertos permit cadenzas, while the rondos of the second and fourth concertos permit Entrances. The fermata in the rondo of the third concerto is problematic. I argue that the Concerto Rondo requires an Entrance and not a cadenza. There are also many other late 18th- and early 19th-century horn concertos that call for cadenzas, such as those of Haydn, Rosetti, Stich (Punto), and Carl Stamitz.

(3.) The Badura-Skodas offer a very good discussion of this late classical device in their chapter on cadenzas. Eva and Paul Badura-Skoda, Interpreting Mozart on the Keyboard, trans. Leo Black (London: Barrie & Rockliff, 1962), 214-41. Turk presents the classical contemporary discussion of the Entrance. Daniel Gottlob Turk , School of Clavier Playing, trans. Raymond H. Haggh (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska, 1982), 293-96.

(4.) Turk, School of Clavier Playing, 297-301. Turk is considered to be a summation of late eighteenth-century practice. Both Tartini and Quantz also provide useful recommendations, with interesting differences. Singers may find J.A. Hiller's remarks useful. Giuseppe Tartini, Traite des Agrements de la Musique, trans. Cuthbert Girdlestone (Celle: Herman Moeck, 1961), 117-25; Johann Joachim Quantz, On Playing the Flute, trans. Edward Reilly (Boston: Northeastern University, 1976), 181-86; Johann Adam Hiller, Treatise of Vocal Performance and Ornamentation, trans. Suzanne Beicken (New York: Cambridge University, 2001), 121-34.

(5.) I have college students select three motives, which requires only the further addition of more passage work after the development of the second motive and prior to the introduction of the third, which latter now precedes the cadential passage.

(6.) I have compiled a brief list of common "figures" that are useful in this connection, including scales and scale fragments, arpeggios, and various manipulations of the same. The student will probably be familiar with them from the study of much of the standard etude literature.

(7.) A simple modulation, however, presents few problems and can be achieved fairly readily in the connecting passage work, as discussed below.

(8.) Quantz, On Playing the Flute, 183.

Sion M. Honea is lecturer in music history and horn and is the head of the division of music theory and music history at the University of Central Oklahoma. He was formerly head of rare books and assistant professor of humanities at The Eastman School of Music.
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Author:Honea, Sion M.
Publication:American Music Teacher
Date:Dec 1, 2007
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