Joe's Blog

vectors; counter vectors; and brilliance in playing

September 26, 2021

practicing notes 9/22/21

If an object is experiencing two equal and oppositely directly forces the net result is an absence of movement on the part of the object. But this is not a static state for the object, for in at any moment in time if one of the two vectors varies in strength, there will be a sudden motion in the object, in the direction of the force that is now relatively the stronger.

I’ve used this principle everywhere in my playing. It is a way of applying two opposite intents to a single situation, to control the balance in any sort of blend of factors whether they are physical, emotional or temporal. It is a way of building up tension until, at the moment of release, there is a sudden overpowering burst of energy*, that will accomplish feats of speed or distance, for instance, that could not otherwise be achieved through a one
directional intent towards being faster or travelling farther.

It is like watching, from a viewpoint on the side, the motion of the rope in a tug of war. Pick a point along the rope, somewhere between the two teams, and you will see it almost quiver with motion that seems, like racers just before the starting pistol fires, both about to happen and restrained.

Or like the escapement of a watch, rocking back and forth, and in so doing parcels out the energy of an unwinding spring in short gradual stages, that suddenly breaks down, allowing all the remaining energy to release in a brief moment. “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” (Yeats: the Second Coming). In my practicing today I am trying to enact the  vector/counter-vector principle in a very fast, and very specific way, that  effects the micro movements of the fingers.

First I try to rotate my hand and forearm, ever so slightly clockwise.  But as  soon as I do that I create a strong counter force arising in a    counterclockwise direction, thus limiting the former clockwise motion to a few degrees. If the counterclockwise force has complete stopped the clockwise rotation in the hand, I generate a counter-counter-force in the  clockwise direction, as a way of trying not to loose the albeit tiny gain already achieved in that direction. This effectively halts the counterclockwise motion so that the motion in that direction is kept to just a few degrees. Sort of like being “between a rock and a hard place”. The forearm is trying to rotate in either direction but has barely any wiggle room. I try first one ay then the other and gain minimal ground in either direction.

This contest goes on at a sufficiently fast rate that the hand seems to vibrate or quiver back and forth, irrespective what the fingers are doing to  enunciate the notes of the piece being played. The result is that the fingers are themselves, as an extension of the hand and arm, are never quite striking the keys downwards, vertically, but at a slight rotational bias one way or the other. It is that combination of motion and resistance that then affects, on an instant to instant basis, every move I make, not only with the hand but with the actual five fingers themselves.

* in this regard it dovetails with the principle of a “spring” which, along with vector/counter-vector, is a basic feature of my technique. In a ‘spring’ something is rotated or moved a distance that is beyond its normal fetch.

I am using ‘fetch’ in the sense of the distance a wind blows unobstructed  over water, esp. as a factor affecting the buildup of waves. As the wave hit the shore its store of energy is released suddenly and dramatically.


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