Interview With Tonebase’s Piano Govt Ben Laude
In late 2019, Tonebase Piano was launched, with the goal of giving novice pianists entry to excessive stage music training by way of premium on-line content material that includes nice artists. Since then, training has been trending much more in a digital course due to the pandemic. Piano Road’s Patrick Jovell has talked to Ben Laude in regards to the challenges he confronted constructing Tonebase’s piano platform, but additionally about how you can forge a unified music training, reconciling our bodily and digital realities.
Piano Road: Pricey Ben, thanks for letting us interview you! From what I do know you’re chargeable for the Piano at Tonebase. However you aren’t alone. I might depend fifteen folks working in your workforce. Among the many founders I discover Chris Garwood who’s a guitarist. Are you able to inform me how it began and the way it has developed?
Ben Laude: To begin with, thanks Patrick and to everybody at Piano Road for the sources you’ve been offering us pianists for many years now! I used to frequent the boards again in my conservatory days, principally seeking to choose fights with folks about whose Rach 3 recording was the best (it was Horowitz and Reiner from 1951, I used to be satisfied).
I joined tonebase in medias res about two years in the past with a easy mandate: construct the piano platform. The mannequin I had on the time was tonebase’s authentic pilot classical guitar platform, which had been launched in 2017. Our three founders met at Yale, the place two of them (Chris Garwood and Igor Lichtmann) had been pursuing their grasp’s in guitar. They took their ‘Music and Enterprise’ course extra critically than most, it appears, and ended up with a germ of a marketing strategy. They linked with a comp-sci/econ double main whiz child (Abhi Nayar), and the three of them formally based tonebase in the summertime of 2017. Their savvy and preliminary success led to getting concerned with some Silicon Valley traders, with whom they secured funding to broaden to a different instrument. Piano was the plain alternative.
On the time I used to be employed, I used to be busy instructing and performing, and continued to help David Dubal in curating his NYC piano efficiency sequence (a gig I had going again to my early grad work at Juilliard). I figured it was time to place the doctorate I earned in piano to correct use, and had began making use of to tenure-track jobs in greater ed when the decision for a tonebase ‘Head of Piano’ fell into my lap. It appeared a bit too good to be true, as I’ve had a second ardour for media manufacturing relationship again to highschool, particularly video enhancing. I’ve at all times loved Bruno Mosaingeon’s interviews on the piano with Glenn Gould and wished extra movies like this existed with extra pianists.
My first six months at tonebase had been a mad scramble to recruit as many excessive calibre pianists and professors as I might and coordinate productions on numerous repertoire and pianistic matters. Garrick Ohlsson was one of many first main artists to say ‘sure’ – he and I met for espresso in New York the summer season of 2019 and bought misplaced in dialog about piano. He was clearly an ideal match for our longform type of in-depth tutorial movies, and I owe lots to him for being keen to contribute classes to our launch. The following massive problem was organizing our post-production workflow with my teammates – enhancing the video and including corresponding scores and workbooks to the platform. (I watched Ohlsson educate Chopin’s First Ballade and Third Scherzo time and again for thus many hours whereas enhancing these classes, that I will need to have realized each items by osmosis – they’re now in my lively repertoire and I can’t account for that primarily based on practice-time alone.) We launched in late 2019 with about 30 movies and to-date we’re approaching 300 launched, plus dozens extra in our backlog ready to be processed and launched.
2020 was a bittersweet. It began off in January and February with some unforgettable productions, together with two prolonged classes with Leon Fleisher, simply months earlier than he handed. Whereas Covid led to the next demand for streaming companies, it additionally grew to become fairly troublesome to proceed productions as earlier than. I additionally started to direct my energies in direction of growing foundational musicianship content material, newbie programs, and reside programming, whereas persevering with to pursue new collaborations with nice live performance artists and professors the place attainable. 2021 couldn’t have arrived quickly sufficient. Our subscriber depend has by now risen to over 5000; amongst our lively customers, about 40% are ‘severe amateurs’, 40% lecturers/professionals, and one other 20% or so youthful college students. We’re aiming to maintain tempo with our increasing base as we develop, and proceed to supply a very distinctive and distinctive product to pianists of very totally different backgrounds. There’s additionally some main live performance artists who shall be added to our roster quickly, together with just a few primarily based within the UK/EU, and I sit up for producing with them later this 12 months (hopefully in particular person, fingers crossed). We’re nonetheless a younger platform, and I’m excited to see the place we are able to go from right here.
PS:You’re a Juilliard educated pianist and also you additionally operate as a tutor, additionally on Tonebase. Which key questions on piano taking part in and interpretation have you ever nourished by way of the years and which come out in your operate as a Masterclass moderator?
BL: Whereas at Juilliard I grew fascinated by one of many core questions, or mysteries, of piano taking part in: that’s, what’s the relation between bodily method and musical expression. The extra I investigated the issue, the extra I found that musicianship coaching – i.e., deeply internalizing musical relationships in a single’s thoughts, ear, and voice – can foster higher interpretive concepts whereas additionally contributing on to overcoming bodily obstacles. In my tonebase classes, I’ve tried to emphasise the significance of integrating music concept and aural expertise into our follow on the keyboard, and we’ve been releasing increasingly sensible musicianship content material for our customers’ profit.
These musicianship topics are sometimes taught in isolation, particularly within the American conservatory techniques I’m aware of, in order that your typical piano main will sleep by way of music concept class on Monday, mumble by way of solfege workout routines on Tuesday, and present up on Wednesday for a non-public lesson. This leads to an unlucky separation between the mental comprehension of concord and kind, the aural recognition of musical relationships, and the bodily realization of those rules in efficiency. (I also needs to point out a significant fourth aspect, the research of music historical past and tradition, which takes place on Thursday and is forgotten about by the weekend!) It’s no surprise why so many one-sided musicians have emerged from this state of affairs. How usually have we encountered a pianist with “nice method, however nothing to say” or with “nice concepts, however no chops,” or those that have nice ears or analytical minds however by no means utilized them on the piano?
The treatment, I’ve discovered, is a type of well-rounded musicianship coaching the place taking part in the piano is handled as a method for growing your musical character, quite than as an finish in itself. I don’t declare to know one of the simplest ways to get there! However, I’ve familiarized myself with some traditions that I consider may help an ideal deal – for one, I’ve at all times discovered Nadia Boulanger’s methodology of keyboard expertise coaching, with solfege and harmonic evaluation combined in, to be very helpful. (The primary time I ever carried out Bach and not using a reminiscence slip got here after painstakingly working by way of the Fugue phrase-by-phrase, singing one voice whereas taking part in the others, then switching.) Committing to such coaching transforms our connection to the instrument, and over time a type of holistic consciousness begins to develop, which is simply superior. It turns into almost inconceivable to play a given figuration or development on the piano with out listening to its element components and understanding one thing about how they relate. Scores may be processed sooner and memorization turns into rather more fast and dependable. Moreover, these new sensitivities immediately inform how passages may be performed, conjuring all types of prospects about voicing, texture, phrasing, rubato, and so forth. Bodily, the instrument begins feeling extra like an extension of your arm, hand, and fingers, relieving pressure and selling facility.
There’s rather more to this, however these are the fundamental contours of a type of “musical fluency” on the keyboard that I consider all pianists ought to develop extra completely (together with myself!), and which I hope to unfold by way of tonebase.
PS: The road-up of artists and pedagogues on Tonebase is spectacular as are the productions in query. The expertise used is a proof of your ambition to provide the viewer the absolute best likelihood to get into the contents of the Masterclasses. One simply thinks about fastidiously directed momenta to be able to safe the core message. As a “stage director”, how do you handle the totally different artists and personalities which all have their very own fields of experience and personal articulated creative/pedagogical universes?
BL: Pianists may be temperamental, specific folks, and every of the artists on tonebase has a singular imaginative and prescient on the instrument that has been honed over a long time. I’m fortunate to work with one pianist at a time, since their views usually rub in opposition to one another. In some instances, they look like in direct opposition. For instance, Leon Fleisher preached a rhythmically-strict, architectural method to constructing phrases; Jerome Lowenthal insisted on a rhythmically versatile, narrative method to interpretation. Who is true? Each, and neither, I suppose. What issues to me is that each have the ground, and are given a platform to exhibit and defend their views on the instrument. Then, it’s as much as viewers to observe, take up, and discover what resonates with them. Pianistic knowledge is available in many types, typically contradictory!
When it comes to stage course, I do my finest to steer and construction classes with out leaving my fingerprints throughout them. Some artists, like Boris Berman, most well-liked to work extra fastidiously with me upfront to develop a fastidiously articulated lesson plan. In different instances, artists had been extra snug talking extemporaneously about their piece or subject. Garrick Ohlsson, for instance, had a wonderful capacity to spontaneously manifest extremely structured classes on the spot with only a few retakes. One of many trickiest elements of the job has to do with constructing a super viewer within the thoughts of the artist. Professors are used to the give and take of participating immediately with a pupil in particular person, so talking to an nameless future pupil inside a digital camera may be alienating. If I can handle to make artists snug and be themselves, they neglect in regards to the synthetic setting they’re in and their personalities shine by way of.
PS: This final 12 months’s Pandemic scenario has proven a crucial improve in consulting digital sources in music training. Establishments are actually rather more open to incorporate such options of their common curricula. How do you are expecting the longer term for Tonebase and related sources on the Web?
BL: I ought to say that I’m acquainted sufficient with dystopian literature and movie to be suspicious of the rallying cry to completely digitize training. It has appeared inevitable because the creation of the web and streaming companies, however brick and mortar academic establishments had been too completely entrenched in social life to be uprooted like Blockbuster Video. However, training had been trending in a digital course when 2020 arrived. It looks as if the pandemic simply sped issues up by a decade.
The unique mission of tonebase was about connecting novice pianists to the in any other case insulated worlds of conservatory and live performance corridor. Due to this fact it relied on the coexistence, and separation, between offline establishments and on-line people. The novice’s relative isolation from facilities of excessive stage music making and training was the issue we had been fixing by making the knowledge of nice artists accessible and reasonably priced. However what we discovered even earlier than the pandemic was a widespread normal curiosity in such premium on-line video content material, from extra amateurs on the periphery to professionals on the heart of those establishments, plus many college students and lecturers in between. Now that the pandemic has created a scenario during which everyone seems to be remoted, together with from their very own establishments, there was a necessity for digital experiences of every kind. Some are surrogates that can disappear as soon as social restrictions are lifted, but it surely looks as if others are right here to remain. I see a number of potential for tonebase and different on-line sources to develop into staples of music training within the post-Covid future, each in institutional settings and personal instructing.
You would possibly suppose a subjective, sensuous self-discipline like music requires the flexibleness of “offline” studying and would discover much less use in incorporating digital sources into the classroom or studio. But what I’ve present in observing tonebase’s enchantment is that it’s exactly the elusiveness of music training that will increase the worth of any given artist’s video classes. Whereas it may be fascinating to listen to the identical calculus idea defined by 5 totally different math instructors, in the end they’re every making an attempt to speak the identical bit of information. That is by no means fairly the case with piano instructors, as there’s an exquisite lack of consensus about even elementary rules of method and interpretation. There aren’t any axiomatic proofs to musical understanding or scientific legal guidelines to piano method, there are solely more-or-less-successful approaches developed and handed down by way of lineages of mentorship. Below the appropriate circumstances, piano lecturers ought to embrace this wholesome relativism and make the most of our video archive as dialogue materials throughout classes. Having college students weigh totally different approaches will assist them suppose critically about piano taking part in, discover options sooner, and in the end foster authentic artistry to a level not attainable in the event you solely had entry to the views of 1 or two professors.
Alternatively, usually the purpose of a lesson is to not encourage an exploration of various viewpoints, however to give attention to fixing a pupil’s particular issues with out the distractions of a second opinion. Even right here, a digital useful resource like tonebase presents plenty of promise down the street. Personal lecturers usually surprise what goes on in the course of the 167 hours between classes with a pupil, and having trusted, top quality video classes and coaching movies out there for the coed to observe and follow together with could possibly be a sport changer. Lecturers could possibly be spending precious lesson time engaged on the actual issues a pupil is going through whereas they entrust tonebase’s digital instructors to do the job of introducing or reinforcing ideas and expertise within the interim. Alongside these traces, I consider piano departments and music faculty libraries will discover nice worth in making tonebase out there to each college students and college as a flexible instructing and coaching useful resource.
After all, in-person studying environments carry advantages that may’t or shouldn’t be reproduced by digital applied sciences, corresponding to direct suggestions from instructors and social interplay with friends. Music, as Boris Berman exclaims in a tonebase lesson, is “the artwork of sound,” and there’s one thing irreplaceable about experiencing sonic vibrations in particular person – making, sharing, and commenting on music collectively in the identical area. Suggestions may be digitally mediated to a level, and tonebase has been rising its reside workshops and growing group suggestions channels. However in the end, the ability of digital sources utilized together with in-person instruction stays unrealized, particularly in music. The objective is to make tonebase a constructive drive in reconciling our bodily and digital realities and forging a unified music training that attracts from the most effective of each worlds. (And if all hell breaks free and the machines do attempt to take over, I’d count on the humanizing forces of music training to tame the robots and for tonebase to assist preserve our priorities straight!)
Emanuel Ax on Studying Chopin in Lockdown
tonebase not too long ago visited the 7-time GRAMMY Award-winning pianist at his breathtaking dwelling within the Berkshires for an prolonged interview and recording session.