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August 25, 2014
Stanley Ritchie

When I was a student at Indiana University, I was very fortunate to study with two of the greatest violin pedagogues in modern times: Josef Gingold for modern violin and Stanley Ritchie for baroque violin (who is currently still teaching at I.U.).

One of the most important things I learned from Stanley Ritchie, which I’ve just discovered is the same in funk: “Everything is in ONE!”  Mr. Ritchie always used to say this to us in baroque orchestra rehearsals – and continues to say this to his current students at I.U., as he teaches them how to feel it.

But what did it mean, we wondered.  The downbeat of every bar is almost always the most important beat when playing in baroque style.  Giving it a special emphasis and lightening up on the rest of the bar gives energized direction to the measure, giving it momentum to swing freely into the next bar. No matter what the meter, every measure, every phrase, every piece – is in ONE.  Once this is understood, the music is suddenly imbued with new life and flows along naturally on its own.

It seems to me that many modern performances of baroque music have lost this special quality of “the ONE”, and it was this subtle secret ingredient that made me fall in love with performing baroque music in a historically authentic way on original instruments.  Mr. Ritchie was able to convey this to us with his gestures in a way that is impossible for me to do here through words.

James Brown

The other day, someone on facebook made a comment on one of my posts, and gave me a link to a video about “the ONE” as experienced in funk.  Curious, I watched the video, and – even though the context is completely (!) different, and the use of “the ONE” isn’t quite the same in this style of music as in baroque music, yet it was clear to me that there is something about it that IS the same, and that special swinging quality of life is hugely obvious.

The obvious “ONE”:
Watch the funk video here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hT1LEeqjB-E

The subtle “ONE”:
Now here’s a very different kind of music – some Bach for solo baroque violin.
Do you hear “the ONE”?   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prrGTRIkVKE

I love to think about how two such very different styles of music still get their sense of lively direction from the concept of “the ONE”.  It seems that “the ONE” does more than just keep time, it unifies things that are separate in a way that ignites sparks of life within the musician and the listener.

How do YOU experience “the ONE” in music?  In your life?  I’d love to hear your comments!

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direction, instruments, life, music, musicians, practice

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  1. So many of us are perfectionists; focussed on the notes. Even to the exclusion of all of the other elements that make music live. “The one” certainly fits into that category. We normally don’t think of Bach and “Groove” in the same sentence.

    Maybe Peter Shaffer said it best in Amadeus:
    (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
    Come on now, be honest! Which one of you wouldn’t rather listen to his hairdresser than Hercules? Or Horatius, or Orpheus… people so lofty they sound as if they shit marble!

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