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How to Conduct an Orchestra

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Published on Apr 23, 2012

The conductor demonstrates some of the basic hand motions involved in his craft.

Question: Explain some of the basic motions that you use to indicate how people should play.Alan Gilbert:
The basic premise of conducting is that you have to give a beat before
the sound.  So if I want a sound to happen... say if we're counting one,
two, three, four, boom... and something happens on the next "one," so
if we're counting in four: one, two, three, four, one, two, three... If
something happens on the next 'one,' then I would have to make a motion
starting on "four."  So I'll count... I go one, two, three, four, one. 
So I start at the gesture before.  Anything that happens, you have to
indicate it, you have to start indicating it a beat before.  That's the
basic premise.  There are more subtleties that can come into play, but
essentially you show things a beat before they happen.  So if something
happens on 'three' -- one, two, three, four, one, two, three.  I alter my
gesture on 'two' in order to show that something is gonna happen on the
next 'three' or on 'four' I go one, two, three, four—I just give a
little bit extra impetus on "four."Then, the next level is the
quality of sound.  If you want it to be a sharp decisive sound, then you
give a more sharply defined, more decisive gesture.  So one, two,
three, four, one -- you give more impetus.  Or if you want a softer sound
one, two, three, four, one -you can give a more gentle sound.  Or if
you want to show that... you can use the left hand to show that you want
more.  There's the time that's going on, but within the gesture, you
can alter also the quality of sound.  If the arm is very, very... if you
fill it with intensity, the sound will tend to be more active and more
rich.  And if you allow the arm to be lighter and weightless, that is
also reflected in the sound.So those are the basic things...
just showing the time.  Events have to be shown one beat before.  Then
the quality of sound on those events can be affected by the speed of the
gesture, the intensity of the gesture, and also the texture, if you
will, of the body itself.Recorded on June 18, 2010Interviewed by David Hirschman

Question: Explain some of the basic motions that you use to indicate how people should play.Alan Gilbert:
The basic premise of conducting is that you have to give a beat before
the sound.  So if I want a sound to happen... say if we're counting one,
two, three, four, boom... and something happens on the next "one," so
if we're counting in four: one, two, three, four, one, two, three... If
something happens on the next 'one,' then I would have to make a motion
starting on "four."  So I'll count... I go one, two, three, four, one. 
So I start at the gesture before.  Anything that happens, you have to
indicate it, you have to start indicating it a beat before.  That's the
basic premise.  There are more subtleties that can come into play, but
essentially you show things a beat before they happen.  So if something
happens on 'three' -- one, two, three, four, one, two, three.  I alter my
gesture on 'two' in order to show that something is gonna happen on the
next 'three' or on 'four' I go one, two, three, four—I just give a
little bit extra impetus on "four."Then, the next level is the
quality of sound.  If you want it to be a sharp decisive sound, then you
give a more sharply defined, more decisive gesture.  So one, two,
three, four, one -- you give more impetus.  Or if you want a softer sound
one, two, three, four, one -you can give a more gentle sound.  Or if
you want to show that... you can use the left hand to show that you want
more.  There's the time that's going on, but within the gesture, you
can alter also the quality of sound.  If the arm is very, very... if you
fill it with intensity, the sound will tend to be more active and more
rich.  And if you allow the arm to be lighter and weightless, that is
also reflected in the sound.So those are the basic things...
just showing the time.  Events have to be shown one beat before.  Then
the quality of sound on those events can be affected by the speed of the
gesture, the intensity of the gesture, and also the texture, if you
will, of the body itself.Recorded on June 18, 2010Interviewed by David Hirschman

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