AN INTERVIEW BY TRICIA CAIATI - MUSIC THERAPY CHRONICLES (11/2020)
(Starting at 5:29)
A SHORT INTERVIEW BY JAMES PEARSON (FOSTER PARK MEDIA)
Foster Park Media: https://www.facebook.com/FosterParkMedia
AN INTERVIEW BY RUPERT CHEEK (02/2019)
“Most of the people don’t think they have any musical idea, but yes, they have a lot inside lying idle in their unconscious, awaiting to be awaken. And we can say for sure that everyone has great ideas, since all of us have an experience of life and we all have the capability of reasoning it which automatically generates feelings, leading to a personal poetics of life… Also, we all have a common experience of sounds and their meaning (some are limited to our own ethnicity, some others are collective), as we all are surrounded by sound and music since we were born. And if we are able to understand music, this is because unconsciously we have learned its rules, thus we all are able to you will provide to those who will come to listen to your music! — Alessandra Cicalini, Journalist who tried to create music as well. So, the aim of Brainarm is to connect people with their own unconscious music and make it become conscious and alive.”
Rupert Cheek (Cheeky Ventures):
Tell me about this composition coaching practice.
“Well, it was 2002 when I started teaching at school. I was 25 and very soon I got bored of teaching children and teenagers in a traditional way, particularly because the great majority of them didn’t practise enough to progress to such level that allows a teacher to tell “music secrets” that makes the piano a great instrument. I mean those discoveries (that we can generically call ART) which are worth 7 or more hours a day spent at piano and make a big difference between a performer and a musician. So I was looking for something that, at the same time was a great deal to me and my students, something to let them express at a high level straightaway. And of course this was not possible on a pianistic level… That’s why I tried with composition, as it gives everyone the chance to try again and again after making mistakes and find something soon or later, not the same as performance.
The point is: I wanted them to have at least one chance in their lives to express at their best with music, even if their best was a very simple music written (as most of them were at grade 1 level or total beginners). But I was absolutely wrong about results. In facts, little by little refining my technique and giving them more and more freedom in term of note range, rhythm, style (and… allow chance to have a chance), I started realizing how beautiful and complex people’s music can be, despite they are not aware of their own potential at first.
Parnassus should be accessible to everybody, so that even one’s neighbour who is tone-deaf, one day may come up with a 1st mov of piano sonata. As a coach, it’s all a matter of using the right tools, be impartial in questions and above all having faith in people.”
“Why is it not possible as a pianist?”
“For some this is possible of course, and today there are many great pianists (one of my favourite is Ramin Bahrami, which is a great interpreter of Bach). But for most of the people who are trained pianists, even if technically well trained, art is inaccessible. They will never have a career, they will not record for labels. So many years and sacrifices and that’s a real shame… Their hands work perfectly on the keyboard, but they have not been able to find that “link” between their heart and their hands, that means being able to take their deepest emotions and transfer them completely into the instrument. The same applies to any instrumentalist basically… It’s really hard to “play oneself”. That’s why I was looking for an alternative medium other than music performance to let people fully express themselves through music, and I have found something that unexpectedly even worked with non-musicians too. While playing at a high level straightaway without being a trained musician would be a miracle, composing at a high level straightaway without being a trained musician is possible. It only requires the mind and the hands of an expert coach as an interface, and this lets anybody fully express themselves without need of any piano or theory lesson at all. And that’s why I have called this innovative praxis Brainarm Full Compositional Coaching.
Helping common people become aware they have great music inside, despite they think they don’t have any musical talent or idea, and that their music is worth to be widely performed, recorded and distributed. Camille was 6 year old non-musician when she composed this wonderful piece via Brainarm.”
AN INTERVIEW BY RUPERT CHEEK (05/2019)
Are you teaching the unmusical person about music so that, in the end, they become musical?
Well, indeed I am not teaching, only providing my hands and know-how. Anything they learn will be an additional gain. They indeed use me as a “human interface” to get access to their own music. But once the session ends they are still untrained of course, despite now aware of their potential and enriched by the experience. There’s not and will never be a method able to magically turn my grandmother into a trained composer… Not even a “become a composer in 24hs” course, not “in 7 days”, not “in 7 months”… Maybe in “7 years”, provided the individual has been trained as an instrumentalist (if possible as a pianist) for at least 10 years. So I am not talking about miracles, just a technique that is able to “connect” any person to a trained end expert pianist-composer and, consequently, to their own
music, without being influenced by the latter.
How do you provide your knowledge without imparting it to the non-musician?
That’s another good question as it allows me to clarify one important aspect. I do not avoid imparting knowledge to the brainarmer, since knowledge is a good thing, even when I am providing my coaching to a non-musician who does not aim to become a professional musician. In facts, they can grasp such loftiest concepts as counterpoint, agogic and musical form even though in a very generic way. And that kind of knowledge will make them more aware listeners. More easily, they can learn about note reading, intervals and simple rhythm. Therefore, Brainarm can become a pretext to teach music theory basics as well as giving people a chance to fly to the top of the Parnassum to admire the beautiful landscape of more complex musical concepts. Indeed I do not try to avoid teaching during a Brainarm
session. What I always avoid to transmit is my own musical ideas and preferences instead, so that their music is THEIRS rather than my own music.
How many ‘non’ musicians start to compose by themselves and end up as Composers / Performers?
So far none of those who have tried Brainarm has become a professional. Only about a hundred people have tried it though and the main purpose of Brainarm is not necessarily that. However, it is possible that a synergy of the traditional training path plus the Brainarm allows one to get to a high level sooner than if they only undergo traditional training. Indeed I am sure that Brainarm would be highly beneficial to those who are about to start or have already started that training and wish to become professionals.
Why would someone who wanted to write down their musical ideas want Brainarm coaching instead of Music / Piano / Composition lessons?
A traditional musical training takes very long: 10 or more years for piano, plus 5-10 years for composition. Using Brainarm allows non-musicians, unexpert musicians and pianists to do what a pianist-composer can only do after that time. Brainarm improves self-esteem because it is like having superpowers that let you fly high as an elephant’s eye. However, they are there only when one is with the coach who is a kind of “genie in a bottle” fulfilling all brainarmer’s desires (musically speaking of course)…
Who do you think would want Brainarm coaching?
Those who want Brainarm are mostly non-musicians who have never played any instruments, as well as beginner and intermediate musicians. Brainarm still works for advanced musicians, provided they are not composers or not expert composers, otherwise, it is pointless to use a “human interface”. However, hardly ever people ask directly for Brainarm because they believe they are not good enough, untalented, tone-deaf or simply that there is not such a technique out there. I hope this behaviour will change in the next few years, once there will be enough Brainarm coaches in the world so that brainarming becomes a well-known praxis (I would say “officially recognised by musical institutions”) and more and more people overcome their own prejudices against it and themselves anymore. Soon or later this position will change, but at present, there is not yet demand for Brainarm. And that’s why I use to propose Brainarm myself to my piano students, sometimes even at their first lesson ever. Nevertheless, some curious intermediate pianists or musicians have requested Brainarm sessions in the past and also more recently, even though they have never had a chance to previously assess that Brainarm works (e.g. attending a public demonstration or being advised by a friend who tried it).
How do you / the Brainarm coachees define Success?
Success for a Brainarm coach is when someone who previously used to think of themselves as unmusical, suddenly become aware of their abilities and awakens to their musical essence! Also, success for a Brainarm coach is when they have not influenced the brainarmer during the process and the result is even better of what the coach expected to be. In other words, success for a Brainarm coach is… dying of envy! Finally, success for a Brainarm coach is seeing great satisfaction in the brainarmer when their music is being played by a professional pianist in front of an audience, together with that of Beethoven, Chopin and other great composers, as well as having it recorded, engraved and distributed.
How do you ensure that it’s THEIR music rather than Yours?
I ensure that it’s the brainarmer’s music rather than mine by being impartial when overseeing the compositional process. My questions are not rhetorical, they are open and so their only aim is to stimulate the brainarmer’s creativity rather than communicating my own ideas and preferences to them. Indeed, I try to let the brainarmer lead the entire compositional process and I myself be just a kind of “theory and technique machine” based on reverse engeneering of the composer’s mind.
Is Brainarm expandable beyond you (Guido)? Could someone else be a coach?
There’s much need for coaches in order to spread Brainarm and let people know they can compose. And since one year I have been encouraging pianist-composers to consider a Brainarm coach training course indeed, despite there is still scepticism amongst my colleagues…
Are there possibilities of moving Brainarm away from the piano?
Yes, that’s possible as well. Actually, it is possible on any instrument (and I look forward to knowing about other coaches’ experience in this regard), although the best results will be on those instruments that alike piano are polyphonic. Brainarming on ensembles and the orchestra is feasible too (and I have tried with three beginner piano students of mine). But most of the time it is not possible to respect the brainarmer’s ideas. Indeed a trained ear is much required as well as having experience of the possibilities of the instruments from his end, because unlike brainarming on piano or any single instrument (where the coach can provide examples on the instrument itself), on ensemble and orchestra brainarming there is no chance for the coach to show the brainarmer the result of their drafts… So, the coach always ends up suggesting solutions in terms of instrumental masses and orchestral doughs. However, as my composition teacher said: “a problem that cannot be solved is not a problem at all!” Brainarming for orchestra is still possible, but only if the brainarmer composes
simple music (meaning simple doughs) and one accepts the limitation that the coach will have to correct the mistakes, therefore influencing the brainarmer. We have to accept this limitation if we want to apply Brainarm to the orchestra. From my point of view, a professional transcription for orchestra of piano Brainarm music would make more sense, however. By the way, any pianist-composer, instrumentalist or orchestra conductor who wish to consider to be trained as Brainarm coach, can get in touch via the contact page at https:/brainarm.com. Any question or doubt might arise after reading the Faq page, please feel free to ask.
Why do YOU want to be a ‘coach’ rather than a Teacher? (This isn’t the same as ‘Why would someone
want a coach rather than a teacher?’)
I am and want to be both a coach and a teacher. These roles are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they complete each other: when teaching I pass knowledge, when coaching I “offer” knowledge. Knowledge is awareness of what is behind the scenes of music. So, when you offer it to someone, you are doing reverse engineering of that knowledge and this boosts your own awareness about music both as a teacher and composer.
How did you learn how to compose?
I learned to compose by attending conservatoires and musical academies. But that was just like raising my own awareness of the rules of music, as now I am convinced that we all have already those rules inside and creativity can’t be taught at all, as it is comparable to learning to jump. This is a potential skill that just awaits to be developed, as we all can jump (unless we suffer from a disability, of course). If one is too young to develop it, 0-1 years old, dad will lift them up and that’s how Brainarm works. Thanks, Rupert, for this opportunity of letting people know more about Brainarm!
People are still scared of it, because of many frauds and scams out there… And that’s why I provide a guarantee to those who wish to try: “Your music out or your money back”. It is possible to try Brainarm at my studio in West London or via Skype. All the taster needs is a piano or keyboard. However, even a phone app keyboard or a toy-keyboard is fine, as I will transfer the notes they choose straight into the score by ear and use my own piano as an aid. Sessions are held either in English, Italian or Spanish, at the taster’s choice. Another way I have been using to overcome people’s prejudice is by informing them as much as possible. Therefore I have just written a book about the Brainarm which is going to be published (hopefully) within the end of 2019. It will be in Italian, but then soon translated into English thereafter. In it, I will answer in more details all the questions you have raised during this interview and talk about the technique itself in more details. Anyone who wishes to be informed when the book is available feel free to get in touch writing to us.