Chinese Science in Piano Pedagogy: Evaluating the Chronicles of Piano Playing Technique with Taichi

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<ul><li><p> Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 46 ( 2012 ) 3102 3106 </p><p>1877-0428 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Hseyin Uzunboylu doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.06.019 </p><p>WCES 2012 </p><p>Chinese science in piano pedagogy: evaluating the chronicles of piano playing technique with Taichi </p><p>Loo Fung Yinga * and Loo Fung Chiatb aUniversity of Malaya, Department of Music, Cultural Centre, 50603, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. </p><p>bUniversiti Putra Malaysia, Department of Music, Faculty of Ecology, 43400, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia </p><p>Abstract </p><p>This paper examines theories of taichi, and the application of this Eastern philosophical concept of movement in the aspect of piano playing technique. The theory of yin and yang, which is the philosophical backbone of all taichi movements, is examined in depth and its theory is employed in studying the traditional and modern approaches of piano playing. Selected components of taichi: balance between yin and yang, and the taichi diagram are found to give new insights in a piano pedagogical sense. 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. </p><p>Keywords: Taichi, yin and yang, solidity and emptiness, piano pedagogy </p><p>1. Background </p><p>Among all Chinese martial arts, taichi has a high reputation for providing health benefits and is the least likely to result in injury (Huang, 2005). There is also a growing literature on taichi in health research such as: stress management (Sandlund and Norlander, 2000); delivering impact on decreasing tension-type headaches (Abbott et al., 2007); study on osteopenic women (Wayne et. al., 2010); and its effect in lower urinary tract symptoms (Jung et. al. 2012). Most studies relate taichi to its health benefits. However, looking deeper into its philosophical backbone, taichi can be seen as a set of bodily movements. Thus in this article, our core concern is to analyze the field of piano playing techniques by applying the philosophy of yin and yang through studying its movement. </p><p>The understanding of taichi diagram is crucial in the study of taichi movement (Jou, 1980). Two important principles were selected from the taichi diagram to analyze piano playing (see Figure 1): </p><p> a) a curved line is used to represent movement (without stagnancy) in circular motion (Ni, 1999). b) The attainment of balance is represented by the equal portion of the white (yang) and the black (yin). The two </p><p>areas are reciprocally integrating and restraining to maintain a continuous balance. In addition, there is a smaller black circle in the white area and vice versa in the black area (in yang there is yin, in yin there is yang or yin zhong you yang yang zhong you yin). This avoids being in total yin or yang that represents extremity which is abnormal. </p><p>* Loo Fung Ying. Tel.: +6-03-79673339 E-mail address: </p><p>Available online at</p><p> 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Hseyin Uzunboylu</p></li><li><p>3103 Loo Fung Ying and Loo Fung Chiat / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 46 ( 2012 ) 3102 3106 </p><p>Figure 1. Taichi diagram </p><p> Recognizing connections between taichi movement and the above principles changes between the yin and yang </p><p>become important theories to relate to various approaches of piano technique. </p><p>2. The Development of Keyboard Techniques </p><p>The traditional method or the finger school (Kochevitsky, 1967) in piano playing owed much to the light mechanism of the harpsichord and clavier, and placed much emphasis on finger dexterity with minimal body movement. A wealth of exercises and etudes were produced for the purpose of developing finger dexterity, such as those by Czerny, Moscheles, Cramer and Clementi. The importance of finger virtuosity within performing arts rose to a peak in the nineteenth century and playing methods consequently utilized greater physical movements. Later, greater emphasis was placed on involving the arms, shoulders and body as well as the fingers (Fielden, 1927). </p><p>change from lighter to heavier key resistance, from the pianoforte of early Viennese style to the English models and up to the modern grand piano (Gerig, 1990). For example, the early twentieth century saw the physiology school of playing focus on the relaxation and weight methods (Weyman, 1918; Matthay, 1923; Leimer &amp; Gieseking, 1972; Bomberger, 1991). Other psychological techniques continued to grow, including what Kochevitsky (1967) named as the psycho-1990); ideo-kinesis introduced by Luigi Bonpensiere (J.O.C., 1953) and also Whiteside (1961) who advises on rhythm as the main motoric source of movement. </p><p>These alternative techniques have introduced concepts radically different to those of the finger school; however, as Kentner (1991) points out, the overall de-emphasis on the finger can have negative effects. In addition, French scientist Jules Amar explains that the motor skill of pianist includes fast movements, achievement of which is inadequate if only carried out with mental practice (Kochevitsky, 1967, p. 18). </p><p>3. Evaluating the Chronicles of Keyboard Technique </p><p>Comparing the merits of either approach the bodily involvement over traditional finger techniques in the form of training or playing always provokes some level of dispute. Too much emphasis on the fingers with the absence of involvement from the other parts of the body can result in less expressive playing because it restricts the variety of tone color and expression (Neuhaus, 1993; Horowitz, 1999). It can also increase the risk of injury (Alford and Szanto, 1996) because tension builds up in the fingers rather than being dissipated through the wrist, arms and shoulders. </p><p>The quest for a well-balanced system in piano playing technique came with pedagogues such as William Townsend, Tobias Matthay and Otto Ortmann, who sought to study the complete playing apparatus as a united whole in motion, could be regarded as in harmony with the concept of taichi. However, it is impossible to determine </p><p>-finger approaches in executing the vast </p></li><li><p>3104 Loo Fung Ying and Loo Fung Chiat / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 46 ( 2012 ) 3102 3106 </p><p>and differing piano repertory as there is no strict formula to deliver an equation. Thus, we seek to answer to solve this problem through applying the theory of yin and yang in analyzing these approaches. The taichi diagram is employed as a model for analyzing the relationship between the traditional and modern approaches (see Figure 2). </p><p>Figure 2. Taichi diagram analysis of piano approaches </p><p>In Figure 2, three taichi diagrams illustrate different balancing of playing approaches. The first diagram (Figure 2a) shows a total yang to represent the traditional finger approach while the other, non-finger approach or modern </p><p> ii) Modern method </p><p>i) Traditional method </p><p>Yang Finger-emphasis approach </p><p>Yin Non-finger-emphasis </p><p>approach </p><p>(a) </p><p>(b) </p><p>State of equilibrium when the two methods are combined in an optimum way </p><p> Full emphasis on the modern method Full emphasis on the finger method </p><p>(c) </p><p>Non-finger-emphasis Finger-emphasis </p></li><li><p>3105 Loo Fung Ying and Loo Fung Chiat / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 46 ( 2012 ) 3102 3106 </p><p>method is represented by the yin entity. In Figure 2b, the diagram shows an extreme use of either approach in playing which represents an abnormal condition that does not conform to the theory of taichi. </p><p>The negativity can be related to the previous discussion: the over-emphasis on finger output and lack of involvement of the other body parts, as seen in the traditional method, results in injury and fatigue (Whiteside 1961; Wristen 1999). Conversely, too much emphasis on the modern approach will inevitably be at the expense of poor finger technique (Fielden, 1927; Kentner, 1991). According to the rules of taichi, an ideal combination of the two approaches based on the illustration of a balanced taichi diagram (see Figure 2c) represents a theory of balance yin there is yang; in yang there is yin. By looking at this principle, it means that the traditional and modern approaches should not appear as individual, distinct entities; the opposite entity is always present to a certain degree. </p><p>Therefore, pianists always claim that playing the piano not only involves the fingers but all moving joints, including the whole body and state that the prevention of movement in one part of the body is the cause of tension (see Grindea, 1995, p. 116; and Parncutt &amp; Troup, 2002). Similarly, Ludwig Deppe, a German piano teacher and conductor, claims that the tone production should not rely only on finger stroke, which is built on weak muscles of the hand and fingers; this alongside the absence of coordination from the arm produces unnatural strength. Looking at this concept from a taichi yin there is yang; in yang there is yin, an important rule is to avoid pursuing the extreme condition such as overly tensing certain parts and relaxing the other, which invites stagnancy. Hence, the traditional method of finger technique, the whole bodily coordination, and kinaesthetic sense are all equally important in piano playing (Mark, 2003). </p><p>4. Conclusion </p><p>As a summary, the dialectic between the non-finger-emphasis approaches and the traditional finger-school in piano playing can be seen as two mutually dependent entities of yin and yang that subscribe to the state of attaining taichi in performance. Moreover, the attainment of taichi in motion such as in taichi is conspicuously similar to </p><p>ing naturalness in technique. Analyzing the theory of yin and yang and looking at how it is applied to a motion-based Chinese martial art delivers some thoughts and principles that may guide pianists in the area of employment of techniques, and act as a philosophical and pedagogical guide in reconsidering the apparatus involved piano playing. 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