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The French trumpet virtuoso Guy Touvron gave masterclasses in Oslo in March 14 -16, 2003. Mr. Touvron was the guest of honor at the annual seminar of the Norwegian Trumpet Forum, which hosted the event supported by Schlagerforlaget and The Norwegian State Academy of Music. Touvron opened the seminar by performing a small piece from a well known opera by Verdi.
Guy Touvron was born on 15th
February 1950 in Vichy. His parents were not musicians, but his grandfather
had been a cornet player. Guy started on cornet at age 10.
October 1967 was an important date for him. He got into Maurice Andre’s class at the Paris Conservatory. A year later he won 1st prize in cornet and in 1969 1st prize on trumpet.
After winning a succession of international prizes between 1971 and 1975, he has pursued an illustrious career throughout the world. Guy Touvron has performed with very prestigious orchestras all over the world. He often performs in the USA and in ASIA, where he has undertaken already 7 tours in Japan. He has now made over 70 records.
According to Touvron, a trumpeter should focus on four issues:
4. Homogeneity (vertically and horizontally)
Attack. Listen for the tone before you play it!
Let your metronome make 4 beats.
On the two first beats you can inhale (using the stomach).
On the 3rd beat the mouthpiece is placed on the lips.
On the 4th beat please imagine the note.
Then start playing without hesitation.
If you miss a note, Touvron’s advice is: Just smile and relax. He also said: Do not change your embouchure going from one part of the register to another. Just change the speed of the air. He explained that the reason for counting before attacking the tone is to combat nervousness by focusing on the rhythm. This method is described in Merri Franquin’s book Methode Complete de la Trompette Moderne
Sound. The quality of your sound is a very important part of your playing, because it constitutes your personal musical signature. Go searching for the beauty of your sound through playing long notes.
Intonation. You develop your ear for good intonation by playing together with others. You actually always need accompanying by a rhythmic or chord instrument. If it is not available, then please imagine it. In this way you can become your own accompanist.
Homogeneity. Keep the same embouchure in the entire register (just change the tongue and lips). This ability can be developed by the exercises by James Stamp.
Touvron recommended the seeking of advice from different schools and trumpet methods. In this way each player can create his own, fitting program consisting of his personal selection of exercises.
When Touvron was asked about his opinion on the French school, he said that it is about to disappear now. In earlier years it was advocated by teachers like Arban and Franquin, but today it disappears due to the increased globalization.
Touvron’s conviction is that the role of the musician is to disseminate the intentions of the composer. The composer has received the music from a higher power or God, not necessarily bound to a certain religion. In respect for this, it is therefore the musicians responsibility to research the intentions of the composer. It can help to find out who he was, and when, where, and how he lived.
Touvron thinks that the ultimate mission of a musician is to pass on feelings. The musician’s technique is of less importance. He compared the musician’s technical abilities to a writer’s vocabulary. A rich vocabulary enables the writer a more detailed mode of expression, so it can be useful seen from this angle.
It is really important to feel your own aura. Touvron called it the “bubble”. Its mission is to protect you against intrusion. When you are inside your bubble, you are capable of being undisturbed and focusing only on the music in your concert situation.
Touvron further emphasized the importance of “grounding” – standing in perfect balance on your feet. He compared it to a tree with deep roots. The deeper and more widespread the roots, the larger and heavier the crown of the tree can be. The musician must be grounded so that the music can move freely. Chinese tradition perceives humans consisting of a lower and upper part. The lower part stands for “labor”, while the upper part represents “freedom and vacation”. The harder you work, the freer you can be!
Touvron also told the attendants to perceive themselves as “musicians” rather than instrumentalists. He recommends musicians to engage in “sports”, but nothing terribly demanding – just enough to keep the body in good shape. Touvron also talked a lot about “love”. To love oneself (“accept ones own feelings and fulfill ones own needs” – translator’s comment) is a condition that must be fulfilled before one can be able to love others. A musician’s very mission is to be a giver who expresses and awakens emotions within in the listener. Therefore every musician should be a loving person.
Touvron also thinks it is important to take risks as an artist. It is ok to fail, but it is not ok not to have tried to give the best.
1. Press 2 fingers against your forehead. Then you move focus from your cerebellum, where your nervousness resides, to the frontal part of the brain.
2. Prepare a ritual which you do before every concert, it gives security.
3. Think of a positive experience, and then lift your trumpet. In this way you create positive associations to your instrument.
4. Our mentality creates limitations for what we can accomplish. In the same way that we create our own limitations, we can expand them. Imagine that your abilities in the higher register are better than what you experience on a daily basis. You can do it like this: Point with your hand as far backwards as you can, and play towards that point. Then imagine that you move the point even further back, play your high notes again. The result is that you will be able to extend your register by doing this mental exercise.
5. To prove the power of our imagination, 4 students were to lift Odd Lund (NTF president) using two fingers each. This seemed impossible. Then they should lay their hands on Odd’s head and afterwards try to lift him again. This time it should work.
As concert preparations Touvron also suggested the use of hypnosis. This way of relaxation needs less time than sleep to give the person a deep rest. In hypnosis one listens to positive thoughts and replenishes one’s strength.
Touvron told about how he as 20 year old struggled with endurance. Honegger’s Intrada was especially challenging. On an extensive concert tour covering different regions of France through 20-30 concerts, he decided to include the piece anyhow. The strategy that helped him to combat his endurance problems was as follows:
“What happens in the beginning of the piece?” he asked himself. ”Aha, a person is strolling around and suddenly discovers a monumental gate. He walks through it (now Touvron plays the opening of Intrada). Where is he now? He is inside a great castle! Here he meets marching soldiers (Touvron plays a new motive). And who is coming there? Oh! The queen herself! Later he also meet the jester. In this way the performance goes on.
This story and the characters of the persons he meets help Touvron create his own interpretation of the musical piece. But it also helps him to create energy sufficient to play all the notes up to the last one. Engaging in this imaginative activity, or mind game, also reduces nervousness.