February 4, 2021
by Aisling Casey
I stumbled upon Body Mapping while investigating better ways to explain how to do certain oboe techniques to my Conservatoire students. Many of the books I read on oboe technique either contradicted each other or contained statements that I just didn’t agree with. Eventually I came across Oboemotions by Stephen Caplan, a guide to oboe playing using the principles of Body Mapping which resonated with me as being a healthy and sensible approach to playing the oboe and prompted me to find out more. Finally, someone was explaining oboe technique based on the truth of the anatomy and HOW we use our bodies.
Neuroscience has always fascinated me, and Body Mapping is a neuroscience-based approach while also embracing somatic techniques like Alexander technique and Feldenkrais. Everything we do originates in the brain, consciously or unconsciously.
Neuroscientists now believe that movement is the reason we have brains at all - not for philosophical musings, scientific inventions, or creative imagination, but for movement.
Musicians move for a living, and this is something that we need students to be aware of and to embrace. I don’t mean grand, disturbing gestures that distract from music making, but the tiny almost imperceptible movements musicians make all the time. By being aware of these and HOW they are achieved, a musician can create more freedom, reduce the risk of injury and eventually make music more freely, which at the end of the day is what it is all about. One way to teach is to play and then the student copies, which is an approach I sometimes do, but explaining HOW you do something is in my opinion just as valuable and for some students, even more so. It empowers a student, by helping them to realise that most problems can be solved once you know HOW. Once they understand this and have the tools to investigate the HOW, their confidence increases and they can be their own teachers, which eventually is my ultimate goal.
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