Sleep is part of a person’s daily activity cycle. There are several different stages of sleep, and they too occur in cycles. If you are an average sleeper, your sleep cycle i
s as follows. When you fist drift off into slumber, your eyes will roll about a bit, your temperature will drop slightly, your muscles will relax, and your breathing will slow and become quite regular. Your brain waves slow down a bit too, with the alpha rhythm of rather fast waves to dominating for the first few minutes. This is called stage 1 sleep. For the next half hour or so, as you relax more and more, you will drift down through stage 2 and stage 3 sleep. The lower your stage of sleep. The slower your brain waves will be. Then about 40to 69 minutes after you lose consciousness you will have reached the deepest sleep of all. Your brain will show the large slow waves that are known as the delta rhythm. This is stage 4 sleep.
You do not remain at this deep fourth stage all night long, but instead about 80 minutes after you fall into slumber, your brain activity level will increase again slightly. The delta rhythm will disappear, to be replaced by the activity pattern of brain waves. Your eyes will begin to dart around under your closed eyelids as if you were looking at something occurring in front of you. This period of rapid eye movement lasts for some 8 to 15 minutes and is called REM. It is during REM sleep period, your body will soon relax again, your breathing will slip gently back from stage 1 to stage 4 sleep----only to rise once again to the surface of near consciousness some 80 minutes later.
The Language of Music
A painter hangs his or her finished pictures on a wall, and everyone can see it. A composer writes a work, but no one can hear it until it is performed. Professional singers and players have great responsibilities, for the composer is utterly dependent on them. A student of music needs as long and as arduous a training to become a performer as a medical student needs to become a doctor. Most training is concerned with technique, for musicians have to have the muscular proficiency of an athlete or a ballet dancer. Singers practice breathing every day, as their vocal chords would be inadequate without controlled muscular support. String players practice moving the fingers of the left hand up and down, while drawing the bow to and fro with the right arm—two entirely different movements.
Singers and instruments have to be able to get every note perfectly in tune. Pianists are spared this particular anxiety, for the notes are already there, waiting for them, and it is the piano tuner’s responsibility to tune the instrument for them. But they have their own difficulties; the hammers that hit the string have to be coaxed not to sound like percussion, and each overlapping tone has to sound clear.
This problem of getting clear texture is one that confronts student conductors: they have to learn to know every note of the music and how it should sound, and they have to aim at controlling these sound with fanatical but selfless authority.
Technique is of no use unless it is combined with musical knowledge and understanding. Great artists are those who are so thoroughly at home in the language of music that they can enjoy performing works written in any century.