The Perfect Wrong Note
William Westney thinks "out of the box" in his new book, which makes a case for allowing "juicy mistakes" in order to make music freely. Westney's passionate writing describes how accepting honest mistakes in practice and performance can lead to increased comfort and physical freedom in the eventual control of a performance. An acclaimed artist-teacher, lie dedicates the book to one of his former teachers, Eloise Ristad, author of A Soprano on Her Head. His background of early study in Dalcroze Eurhythmics permeates his approach to teaching.
Titles of the eleven chapters illuminate the contents of the book: "Music, Magic and Childhood," "Vitality," "Juicy Mistakes," "Step by Step: A Guide to Healthy Practicing," "Breakthroughs," "Is It Good to Be a Good Student?", "Out of Control: The Drama of Performing," "Lessons and Un-Lessons," "The Un-Master Class: Rethinking a Tradition," "Adventurous Amateurs," "Beyond the Music Room," plus a postscript: "A Word to Health Professionals" and a bibliography.
Professionals and amateurs will be grateful to Westney for sharing his life's work. The book will be useful to all music makers, as well as parents. Westney offers useful tips for developing fruitful teacher-student relationships. He challenges teachers to rethink their approach and accuses music lessons of quashing the joy and vitality of music making by discounting the value of intuition and focusing on discipline and correctness. He advocates recapturing the child-like play with music by trusting intuitions and encouraging inner skills through body movement, improvisation, experimentation and group experiences. His preferred music adjudication form would focus on the most indispensable traits such as energy, individuality, communication, imagination and healthy physical connection with the instrument, rather than accuracy.
Westney's ten-step guide to healthy practicing will be immediately useful to students and teachers. He describes healthy practicing as free of strain, free of conflicts between mind and body, productive in a short time and productive mentally and physically. He stresses inner communication between body and mind systems.
Westney is known for a unique presentation called the Un-Master Class that he has given throughout the U.S. and abroad, in chapter nine lie shares his program with teachers who may use the strategies to enable their students to develop self-trust and confidence in order to communicate vitality and authenticity in their performances.
This book will make you think. Reading The Perfect Wrong Note will remind us to allow the "magic" of making music to be the focus, rather than to stress perfection for the next performance. Westney gives us valuable insight into how music study presents a natural here-and-now route to self-knowledge and self-integration. Reviewed by Sylvia Coats, Wichita, Kansas.