Review by Karin Otterbach
“The Conscious Musician is a stunning book, destined to change the perception of music teaching held by parents, teachers and students completely.” – Jorge Volpi
As the writer Jorge Volpi suggests in his prologue to the book, The Conscious Musician is an extraordinary book that offers a completely new approach to music teaching. The book, written by Mexican violnist and music teacher Paulina Derbez, points out various problems that arise in day-to-day music practice and offers the reader practical and effective solutions for enjoyable and tension-free playing.
Derbez leads readers to consider the great potential that lies in our minds, emotions and body and how this relates to our musical instrument, to turn daily practice of an instrument into a true work of art… which is, after all, what playing music should be. Her reflections on the topic adraw from her own experience as a musician, which has led her to create new ways of perceiving and expressing music.
A key concept in the book is that “any problem needs to be resolved first at the mental level”, an idea that the author developed at a time of dramatic changes in her artistic career. As she explains on her website:
“I came to understand that all my technical and musical problems resided in my mind, and it was in my mind that I needed to resolve them. I became aware of the great potential that we have in our minds and the magnificent benefits it can offer in our daily music practice. I also discovered the realm of my emotions and the importance of knowing and feeling exactly which emotion I want to convey to the audience. These two discoveries led me to a positive transformation of my physical state, and I began to feel free of tensions when I played the violin, and, above all, I began to grow ‘close’ once again to music in a healthier and more creative way.”
The Conscious Musician is divided into two parts. The first part sets out the theory behind the method, while the second provides exercises to apply it, explained clearly and simply. Readers are prompted to explore their own state of mind and to use it positively and effectively in their artistic creation. They are also given tools for the development of their emotional balance, a key element to be able to achieve a captivating performance. And the musician’s body is described as the foundation of a solid technique, as Derbez suggests that our physical condition will have a bigger impact on the quality of our instrumental technique more than excessive hours of study.
Underpinning the method proposed is an assertion of the importance of developing a new relationship with sound. Other aspects explored include the creation of an awareness of abdominal breathing, the power resulting from the transformation of the view that musicians have of themselves as performing artists, and the importance of applying this whole methodology to turn stage fright into a moment of strength and full enjoyment. Derbez also outlines the principles of her music course for children because, she suggests, it is at an early age when the changes need to begin so that the mission of music can be truly fulfilled in the human being.
This excellent book opens up new frontiers for the art of music and the true mission of teaching music. It proposes a transformative vision of what it means to play a musical instrument, and will surely become an extremely useful tool for both music students and professionals.
Translated by Martin Boyd