3.3 A Conductor’s Preparation

In section 3.1 and 3.2 you learned a little about the evolution of musical scores and some skills the conductor needs in dealing with the nuts and bolts of the notes that s/he might see in them. The score is the most important tool for a modern conductor in shaping ideas and an interpretation which s/he wishes to communicate to the orchestra. It is vital therefore, that the conductor has a deep understanding of the music as it is conveyed through the notation of the score.

The method of working toward a complete understanding of a score must involve systematic steps. An arbitrary approach might not result in accurately learning the score and will waste the conductor valuable time. A planned approach, although seemingly more involved, will be much faster in the long run.

Figure 3.4: Diagram of the study process

In general, the process of studying a score is similar to the shape of an hourglass (see Fig.3.4). It proceeds from larger overall concepts and works toward smaller details, until the details are then integrated back into a larger interpretation. As a general guideline we recommend dividing the score study process into steps.

  1. Awareness
  2. Investigation
  3. Vision

We are suggesting three steps but there are other possibilities, for example, Battisti and Garofalo (1990).

The first step in analysing and studying a new score is to become acquainted with the overall look of the score. This step can further be divided into two or three parts:

Part 1: The First Pages

Part 2: Scan Through

Part 3: The Text Awareness (for works with text – vocal or choral music)

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