- Spirited Wind Playing: The Performance Dimension by Kim Walker
Major life setbacks such as injury, illness, or loss—be they physical, mental, or both—often compel us to reassess how we approach our music making. This was the case for Kim Walker, who, after a horrific accident, began a voyage of rediscovery in order to find her way back to the playing excellence that had her enrolled in the Curtis Institute of Music, working with major pedagogues, and playing bassoon with top orchestras. How do we play our wind instruments? What do we do in our minds as well as with our bodies that can get in the way of progress and enjoyment? These are some of the questions that she not only found answers to but also codified in this workbook. The fact that she employed these ideas on her own path to recovery lends them validation.
Walker's personal stories and some directions are oriented to bassoon playing, but she draws on pedagogy from all areas of wind performance and often differentiates exercises for flutists as opposed to reed players. Throughout the book, Walker makes humble references to great artists and master teachers from all areas of wind performance as well as specialist practitioners of non-Western music. Full disclosure: I am a flutist, and while I came to this book with some skepticism as to its application for my instrument, it did not take long for that caution to be dispelled. This manual is applicable to all instrumentalists.
The organization of the book is clear, with useful hand-drawn illustrations that are visually friendly. In a future printing, Indiana University Press might want to consider a comb binding so that the book can stay open when doing the exercises. Each chapter ends with a summary section entitled "Mastery" and endnotes, which are particularly useful, as are the "Key Resources" section at the end of the book. There is no index (the publisher should consider adding one in future runs), so users should go through the book and flag key exercises and topics for future reference. This is not a text to be read cover-to-cover but rather to refer to and use actively on a regular basis. Each chapter contains a number [End Page 148] of exercises for which Walker's website (http://www.kimwalker.com.au [accessed 13 March 2019]) is referenced as a source for more (though none were available as of this writing). That said, there are abundant exercises in book itself, so additional ones are not required.
Walker uses some of her own terminology, which she is careful to explain (for example A, R, T, defined on pp. 73–74). When these terms and symbols appear later in the book, it would have been helpful to have reminders of their meaning or the page of initial mention, as this is difficult to find without an index. An example is Walker's reference to "soft eyes" on page 270, which she explained on page 60. Also, the figures often do not align with the nearby text. When they are illustrations, readers can make the inference, but when there is detailed data, it is much harder to determine their purpose, as is the case with table 12.1 (p. 303). Labeled "Emotional Tone Scale," it lists what appear to be opposing emotions that have been assigned positive and negative numbers. I could not find any reference to this rather complicated list and was disappointed not to have it explained for me.
The book is organized in three large parts. The first and densest, "On the Air," encompasses four chapters in 152 pages and is quite possibly the section the user would return to most often. With copious directions, exercises, and examples, Walker encourages readers to think beyond the surface of their bodies and minds while working on their breathing, tone, and posture. She offer various approaches to continued work in this area, and her introduction of Alexander Technique...