What I’m Reading: Living Dangerously with the Horn

While many horn players don’t always like to read up on their instrument when away from it, I love to read the thoughts of other musicians to learn and grow.  I most recently discovered a wonderful book by David M. Maslow entitled Living Dangerously with the Horn: Thoughts on Life and Art.  I purchased my copy on Amazon for a grand total of $0.48, so it is not a significant investment if you wish to snag a copy for yourself.

The book itself is an engaging synthesis of practical, musical, philosophical, and spiritual advice collected by Mr. Kaslow during the course of his long professional and pedagogical career.  Kaslow demonstrates wit, extensive knowledge of literature (as well as art, music, and philosophy) and willingness to incorporate a wide array of other disciplines into his explanation of horn playing. Though the topic material could have been exceptionally dry in the hands of another, Kaslow’s jovial tone and clever writing style add interest to his book.

Boldly exploring the nuances of horn playing, Kaslow offers advice, inspiration, and information, which I found very helpful.  Kaslow seems particularly influenced by Buddhist and other Eastern spiritual traditions, as well as the art of Zen.  His book tackles issues of musicianship in sensical units.  He begins with a section on artistry, which addresses the goals, technical and musical, which govern horn playing.

Chapter two centers on fearlessness and taking orchestral auditions.  Obviously every person is different, so no solution could possibly fix everyone’s problems.  I found this chapter extremely useful and highly compatible with the Fearless Performance (TM) philosophy so enthusiastically and cheerfully advanced by Jeff Nelsen.

His next section discusses the physical health of horn players and offers solutions and advice.  As a person who loves Alexander Technique, I find his ideas easy to digest and reasonable.  There are those who think this is all nonsense, but I am sure that tips for relaxation can help most people.

Kaslow’s discussion of relationships and particularly section and orchestra social dynamics is invaluable! I really believe that even in school orchestras, we as students don’t ever really experience what life in a professional section would be like.  What would it mean to play next to the same person for 30 years? What if you don’t like him/her? What if she doesn’t like you? Few professionals can put into words how sections work, and Kaslow does an admirable job.

The book concludes with an insightful and thought-provoking discussion of perfectionism. While most students strive for this abstract and physically unachievable goal, few stop to really think about that that means.  Kaslow’s wise and nuanced discussion of why, how, and what we think of perfectionism provides a wonderful resource for self-exploration and efficiency in practice sessions.

Here is a sweater I am knitting currently.  As Kaslow demonstrates, it is helpful to have interests away from music. Knitting is a great outlet for me to relax!

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