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Finding the Words: Elective Course

Project Type

Lecture Course


Spring 2022 and Winter 2023


Virtual through the Juilliard School

Finding the Words: Using Language as an Expressive Tool in Instrumental Performance was a seminar taught at The Juilliard School's Preparatory Division for 2 semesters in 2022 and 2023.

This 6-week seminar was aimed at students with a special interest in interdisciplinary thinking looking to explore language as an aid to articulating expressive intention.

Once when at a loss describing his instrumental work, Tchaikovsky cited the poet Heinrich Heine as saying, “Where words leave off, music begins.” In the realm of art songs, text has always enriched musical storytelling. Yet, when it comes to instrumental performance, the word-music relationship can be more indirect: can instrumental performers gain something from delving into the
specificity offered by language? What does it mean to “say something” with music?

Through examples, discussion, and a performance project, students will explore historical contextualization, the language of other art forms, text-based music, gestural thinking, and body language with the goal of developing narrative ideas and becoming more communicative performers.

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