May 11, 2009
Faking it convincingly

I totally relate to this.

For classical-music fans, nothing ruins a good story about a violist beating the odds, or love in the woodwind section, quicker than musical fouls.

So the moment in The Soloist when Jamie Foxx picks up a cello for the first time is a delicate one for the classical-music buff. Not only does Foxx have to convey joy, loss and redemption, he has to look like he can tell the bridge from the fingerboard.

Does he?

"He was very convincing," said Norman Fischer, cello professor at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, a premier Texas music program. "To do what he was doing was very impressive."

"String playing is a very hard thing to really do," Fischer added.

I know next to nothing about playing a stringed instrument, but having played the saxophone for 30 years, I'm very critical of any attempt by a non-musician actor to "play" a sax, or really any wind instrument. It's easy for me to spot faking - the position of the instrument on or in the mouth, the way they breathe, the way their fingers move with the sounds they're supposed to be making (arms in the case of a trombonist) - there are many ways to get it wrong, and it's a distraction once I see any of them. Faking it in a convincing manner is a hard thing to do, and I respect anyone who can do it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 11, 2009 to Music
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