Climax in music
What is a climax in music? The climax is essentially the most intense and emotional part of the phrase. It is not necessarily the highest or highest pitch, but it is the most emphatic in the cycle of a performance phrase or piece of music. There is always a beginning, a climax and an end. Climax can occur at any point between the beginning and end of the cycle, but usually occurs in the middle.
To really understand what a climax loop is, let’s take some non-musical examples. Let’s take laughter for example. As a person laughs, they reach a point where the laughter is most pronounced, usually followed by some kind of gasp (especially in the case of a deep laugh) and subsides. The accentuating part is the climax. Another example is drinking a glass of water. In the actual movement of the glass, which changes from one point in space to another, when the bottom reaches the highest level of elevation, it technically marks the culmination of this cycle. A third example would be, say, a party or event of some kind. It can take months of planning, but when the day comes and the ceremony happens, it’s the culmination of that cycle.
As the musician plays several phrases in any given piece of music, they reach several climaxes. This actually varies from artist to artist and is perhaps one of the most distinguishing factors in a musician. Because music is not just some mechanical action and involves sense and feeling, including emotion, determining the climax and bringing it out is more of a human element than a “merely mechanical” element. Therefore, it is an essential aspect for musical performances of all kinds. Unfortunately, however, it is too often neglected, resulting in mostly mechanical “performances” that make no sense to the listener, thus actually violating the very principle of music!
How then can a musician fix or improve this? There are two moves you can make that will help you gain insight into this. They are not just theoretical but involve actual practical action. Try it whether you are a musician or not. First, turn your hand so that the palm is facing up and make a fist. As you listen to a performance phrase, gradually and slowly open your hand, extending it until you perceive the climax in that phrase, wherever you personally perceive the climax. Your hand should be fully open and you should be able to see your palm when you climax. Then gradually clench your hand into a fist again as the cycle of this phrase ends after its climax. Repeat this action with the same phrase, over and over, until your movement is in sync with this climactic cycle. Try this with other phrases as well until you feel you can do it easily.
The other movement is called “like a fountain”. To do this move, first stand up. Take a phrase and while listening to it, gradually and slowly raise your arms above your head, like a fountain. Your arms should be stretched toward the ceiling as you climax. Then relax your hands freely, thus completing the embodiment of this cycle of the phrase. Again, repeat this action with the same phrase over and over until your movement is in sync with the climax of this piece. Try this with other phrases too.
By doing these two movements (especially the ‘fountain-like’ one) you will actually reach a higher awareness of climax and, if you are a musician, this will make a significant improvement in your own ability to perform emotionally as well as technically, regardless of what level are you Please note that you will only fully understand this by actually DOING these moves, not just hearing about them. This is very important. For example, one can explain to one’s heart what an apple tastes like to you, but if you have never eaten one, you will never truly understand the taste. Well, the same philosophy applies here. It is so important that one actually DO this.
It’s all part of a philosophy known as ‘movement education’ or ‘body in performance’ developed by Dr Alexandra Pearce, Professor Emeritus, University of Redlands, where I studied. Movement training embodies several aspects of music (such as phrasing) in a physical, kinetic form away from the instrument. The results are a much more meaningful performance, as the music becomes much more sensational, using one’s whole being, not just one sense, hearing.