The past few weeks I have been teaching my students to specifically read beyond the notes, to think further, more, to interpret what there is behind the score. What we see is not what we get; we can give so much more to the music we play, by delving deeper into the details, by reading between the notes and phrases. *
We always talk about tone color in piano playing. How about the different shades of colors presented in the music? Can we associate the sound with a color? How about red? Burgundy or blood red? Maroon? Or blue? What shade of blue? Baby blue? Turquoise? Navy blue? When the harmony/material changes, there are also changes in colors, and they can either be gradual change or sudden change of shades/colors.
Another way to make the music more interesting and with more content/depth is to associate the mood/character of the phrases with the use of words- adjectives to be precise, as they are the words to describe something, someone or some situation. Is it agitated, painful (pinching or dull), agonizing, melancholic, fresh, sweet, loving, warm, sarcastic…? There should be one general character that changes gradually or suddenly over the cause of time, like how you would describe a person about his/her personality in general but it also changes constantly. How do you describe that? …
I think when one does not have any idea how to express the music s/he is playing, it would be helpful to use some tools that are more familiar to us in the daily lives outside of music for better understanding and interpretation. For instance, you can make up a storyline for the piece, and some personalities or characters for the themes or phrases; create a specific background for that storyline according to the ebb and flow (or the historical background) of the music: ocean scene with sea animals (dolphins and killer whales!), squirrels running around, the Bavarian forest in Münich, an extravagant ball in New York (alla stila patriotica!), Paris in 1920s… The possibility is boundless.
When we learn to play a piece, we need some interpretation of the music, instead of just getting the notes and rhythm right. What is the music trying to express? What is the general emotion and character of the piece? How can we make it sound more interesting, with more of a personal touch and interpretation in our playing? How can we play the music in a way that it sounds alive and beautiful? Because, it is the Beauty of sound that matters in our Music. **
Use your imagination. Create a fantastical, magical world of imagery, a colorful, three-dimension one, like a mega movie production.
*Sometimes our physical vision-namely our eyes- blinds our mind, that our True vision becomes limited. Let us see further with our mind and our heart, so that we become wiser and our vision clearer.
**Occasionally there are a few cases of the pieces trying to express ugliness that is clearly stated on the score when need be, albeit rare.