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"An Actor Prepares": A musician's approach to a selection of techniques by Konstantin Stanislavski

The belief that imagination’s engagement and emotional connection with what I play enhance my performance propelled me to do this research. However, these are not systematically integrated in instrumental practice. Thus, it seemed to me that the twentieth century theatre director Konstantin Stanislavski’s ‘system’ would be the perfect basis for such a quest. The starting point were acting techniques from his first book "An Actor Prepares": the "given circumstances", imagination-related ("supposed circumstances", “inner visions”, "magic if”) – and emotion-related ("emotion memory", "sensation memory", "surroundings"). Partly supported by existing literature, these techniques were linked with the instrumentalists' work and tested out in a self-case study through three interventions. The process consisted of making video recordings of the 'before' and the actual interventions, which were guided by the filling out of intervention forms designed by me. The techniques were applied on three distinct piano passages of Richard Strauss’ melodrama for narrator and piano "Enoch Arden". Furthermore, I did interventions’ reports to provide more palpable insights about the experience, namely the effects of each technique on the performer. The outcome was evaluated through a questionnaire filled in by a group of listeners, comprising musicians and non-musicians, and by me. The responses generally show that the techniques were effective. However, the recordings were perceived as very similar. Also, the listeners’ perception sometimes differed from mine. Nevertheless, the reports allow us to conclude that these techniques might affect the performer’s focus, creativity, self-confidence, knowledge about the works and also self-knowledge.

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