by Takeshi Hidaka

hidakaGreetings to the readers of IHS digital newsletter. It is a privilege and I would like to express my appreciation to Prof. Ab Koster for the opportunity to contribute the article.

I currently work for the Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai) and I teach and learn horn and music together with the talented young people. Geidai, celebrating its 130th anniversary this year, meaning 130 years have passed since we, the Japanese, have started to move forward with full-scale implementation of western music into our Japanese educational system. Until then, many Japanese studied abroad to learn classical music, which was not familiar in Japanese society back then. With the spread of the Internet, we are able to access to any information easily; however, I strongly feel it is essential for musicians to encounter live music and feel music in their hearts. I would like to extend my gratitude to fruitful articles written by horn players in the past, and I will try my best to provide new information. 

When playing the horn, I believe improving one’s ensemble abilities with other musicians through chamber music and learning the basics such as musical styles are important; moreover, I feel it is essential to develop vibrancy of the sound. In addition to this, listening to your own sound with your ears and finding the right point of resonance are the necessary steps to improve horn playing.

Acoustically speaking, we all know how the "dents" on our instrument and its structure prevent us from playing the right pitch and sound. The movement and the position of rotary valves affect the vibrancy of the sound, and we all need to be aware of both the structure of the instrument and the maintenance methods. Parallel to the musical approach to the horn, I invite and work closely with a licensed physical therapist, implementing a physical therapy approach to horn playing at the university.

There is an important relationship between the breathing, posture, and attitude, when playing the horn. When we are able to breathe smoothly as we play the horn, it has a positive impact both physically and mentally.

In order to acquire knowledge of basic medicine, we learn from kinematics, physiology, anatomy, posture, circulation (heart) and respiration (lung), sensory system, etc. Surprisingly, there are many students who are not aware of the right position of the diaphragm and/or how it moves. In our classes, students learn about the position and center of gravity responsible for balancing our bodies. The students not only learn from texts and figures, but they actually feel their bodies by moving their bodies through exercise and stretching. Somatic sensory awareness plays an important role in order to realize the relationship between the body movements and center of gravity.

Somatic sensory awareness is one of the most important elements in order to control and keep the good posture, and I believe that developing somatic sensory awareness is very important when playing the horn. This physical therapy approach is very simple, reproducible, and universal. We also learn about “self-care,” which helps musicians to care for themselves in order to continue stable performance.

Through the classes I have given in the past two years, changes of students’ postures and attitudes are seen with improvements of the sounds and techniques. By developing the somatic sensory awareness and forming the good habit of listening to the vibrancy of sound, the level in which students realize and feel the quality and color of sounds seems to increase greatly. I strongly believe that working on educational research, not only from the musical approach, but also with a special team of physical therapists and instrument makers, are inevitable for the future improvement of horn performance and expression.

Takeshi Hidaka studied economics at Nagasaki University and horn in Tokyo and Maastricht. His teachers include E. Penzel, W. Sanders, Kozo Moriyama, Makoto Yamada, and Yasunori Tahara. He joined the NHK Symphony Orchestra in 2005 and became acting principal in 2008. Since 2013, he is associate professor at the Tokyo University of the Arts and has had a distinguished solo, chamber music, and recording career.

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