Robert Craft: What is technique?

Igor Stravinsky: The whole man. We learn how to use it but we cannot acquire it in the first place; or perhaps I should say that we are born with the ability to acquire it. At present it has come to mean the opposite of “heart,” though, of course, “heart” is technique too. A single blot on a paper by my friend Eugene Berman I instantly recognize as a Berman blot. What have I recognized – a style or a technique? Are they the same signature of the whole man? Stendhal ( in The Roman Promenades) believed that style is “the manner that each one has of saying the same thing.” But, obviously, no one says the same thing because the saying is also the thing. A technique or a style for saying something original does not exist a priori, it is created by the original saying itself. We sometimes say of a composer that he lacks technique. We say of Schumann, for example, that he did not have enough orchestral technique. But we do not believe that more technique would change the composer. “Thought” is not one thing and “technique” another, namely, the ability to transfer, “express,” or develop thoughts. We cannot say “the technique of Bach” (I never say it), yet in every sense he had more of it than anyone; our extraneous meaning becomes ridiculous when we try to imagine the separation of Bach’s musical substance and the making of it. Technique is not a teachable science, neither is learning, nor scholarship, nor even the knowledge of how to do something. It is creation and, being creation, it is new every time.

[p. 25, Conversations with Igor Stravinsky. Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, 1959 Doubleday, Garden City, NY.]

Su Ai, Double concerto

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