From Joe Armstrong, Publisher and co-author
In 1970, toward the end of my first year of training in London London to become a teacher of the Alexander Technique, I heard that Vivien Mackie, a professional cellist who had studied extensively with Pablo Casals, was going to join the class too. Since I had come to revere and respect Casals as the greatest musician of our time, the prospect of getting to know and maybe even work closely with someone who possessed something of his understanding and approach to music was beyond anything I could have hoped for at that stage of my quest as a flutist.
So before I even met Vivien, I knew I would try to question her as much as I could on every facet of her experience with Casals. As luck would have it, we seemed to be on the same wave-length right from our first meeting, and what's more, she actually seemed to be grateful - even somewhat relieved - to have the chance to talk about her work with Casals, because, to my surprise, I was the first person she knew who was really interested in hearing about every detail of it.
Also lucky for me, Vivien turned out to be a natural raconteur, and I began taking advantage of that by roping her into many long conversations. I was struck right off by her telling me how she, like me, had lost touch with something precious in her playing by the time she'd left music school, and it had taken her intensive study with Casals to bring it back. It was soon clear that her experience with him was unique not only because of that, but also because she had worked with him longer than almost anyone else.
But I realized that however illuminating our talks might be, they were probably only scratching the surface of what she had actually learned from her three whole years with Casals; so I decided to ask her if she would consider teaching me how to play the cello--thinking that it could be the most direct way of experiencing and understanding, at least 'second-hand,' the elements of how Casals had taught her that not only brought back what she had lost but also took her to the highest professional level. She liked the idea very much, and we began 'doing cello' there together several times a week during our lunch breaks over the next year and a half or so.
I was amazed at what transpired in the lessons--esepcially compared to some instruction I'd had in a year of string class in music school. (I was actually supposed to be qualified to teach beginning strings merely by taking that course!) I'd hoped that because of this earlier experience I might be a little more receptive as a student, but I soon saw that none of that was even relevant to the way Vivien was teaching me. It was totally different from--even opposite to--what I thought most other string teachers were probably doing in their teaching, because she was getting me to experience a far broader range of expressive and kinaesthetic possibilities all over the instrument right from the start by completely bypassing the conventional dwelling for a long time on the progression of distinctly confined left-hand positiions. In a few months I was able to begin learning pieces I could never have conceived of playing at the end of my college string course. And this difference in Vivien's approach only seems to me more pronounced today, after having had the chance both to work extensively with a large number of fine string players and teachers in my many years of Alexander teaching in Boston and to watch Vivien bring these revelations to most of them in Alexander string courses we've given here together.
As our collaboration developed and we probed further and further into the elements of musical expression, I could see that it would be very valuable to others if we could create some record of Vivien's experience with Casals and show how his great legacy can be understood and passed on--especially with the aid of the Alexander Technique, since the process of learning and teaching it involves so many of the same understandings applied to life in general that Casals brought to cello teaching and all his music making. So in 1984 I suggested we start recording some of our conversations by harking back to Vivien's initial study with him, continuing from there through her experience with the Alexander Technique, and then going on to her amalgamation of the two into her own unique way of teaching--not just cellists, but musicians of every kind--all around the world. She agreed, and this book is what came out of the project.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.