Monday, November 29, 2010

Stephen Blier, Song, and FSH

Justin Davidson's recent article on Steven Blier in New York Magazine sheds some light on one of New York's most famous vocal coaches. I particularly like his diet of one new song a day:
Today, he still tries to encounter at least one new song every day. YouTube helps. So do a network of advisers and his own meandering taste, which embraces pretty much anything that can be delivered effectively by a voice and a piano: Norwegian art songs, Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire,” Cuban ballads, Broadway tunes, zarzuela arias. What separates the ones that interest him from those that don’t is not style, but a nugget of emotional intensity. “A song is the closest thing I know in waking life to dreaming,” he says. “It’s a coded version of reality. It’s not like playing a scene from Chekhov, where you’re trying to look like you’re having a tea party or a nervous breakdown. Instead, you’re enacting a coded, ritualized version of that moment, and somehow everyone in the hall is dreaming along with you.”
What many people don`t realize is the difficulty with which Blier works because of Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, its progress confining him to a wheelchair.  Through it all, he works to bring to life the often-mistaken-for-dead art of the song recital and the singers who adore the genre. Here is Blier talking about his brainchild the New York Festival of Song:


  1. I am a piano major in college and have FSH Muscular Dystrophy. My "one roadblock to success" as my teacher put the other day, is my tension. My upper back and arms stiffen up a really lot when I play, which gets in the way of sounding better. I have been working on it for a little over a year with this teacher's help and have improved some, but still struggling. I am not sure if it is from the MD or if it is a problem any pianist can have. Do you know of a good way to help or something?

    1. Christina, I can't comment on anyone's individual technical issues without having had the chance to see them playing in the studio. Your best bet would be to work with both a fine teacher and a therapist familiar with the physical issues of MD. Hope that helps!