There are probably few people who are aware of the challenges involved when it comes to training orchestra conductors in a country like Mexico. To many people it might be as strange as a mathematical equation. A few months ago I was invited to write the prologue for an academic work that in turn studies a method for teaching the art of conducting, which is authored by Mexican professor and conductor, Dr. Jorge Ramón Pérez-Gómez (Mexico City, 1954). The invitation came from Dr. Irma Susana Carbajal Vaca, an outstanding scholar of musical pedagogy in our country
Pérez-Gómez published in 2015 the Handbook of conducting technique: Manuale di tecnica di direzione, a methodology that achieves to assemble fundamental technical concepts of the art of conducting and conveys them clearly and effectively. In his courses, he has explored the idea of the conductor’s “interpretative intention”, achieved from the connection between movement, breathing and singing. In the same way that the conductor’s gesture in front of the orchestra must be “clear and expressive”, Dr. Pérez-Gómez lucidly explains his pedagogy to students, teachers and researchers through a manual that shows immediate practical applications.
Dr. Irma Susana Carbajal has been able to unravel the essence of Pérez-Gómez’s teachings. After a year of research into the application of the method, the author groups the results in three sections: the approach to the problem she investigates, the concepts in view of which she evaluates the problem, and the “explicit intentionalities” (non-verbal communication, gesture, breathing, symmetry, movement, connection, function, perception and intention), as well as the “non-explicit intentions” in the pedagogy studied.
Since his years of formation, Dr. Pérez-Gómez had made his own the intuitions of Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996), in which he found the inspiration to contribute new conclusions that emerged during decades of teaching experience.
A pioneer of the phenomenological approach to conducting, Celibidache had re examined basic concepts of musical science, and thus reformulated the task of the conductor as a performer. Celibidache lived closely the philosophical renewal of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), who tried to make philosophy a method both precise and progressive. Husserl’s new concept of intentional consciousness became the notion of the intentionality of the artist and, therefore, that of the conductor. This was not the only insight that the great Celibidache transmitted to young conductors all over the world.
For Dr. Jorge Pérez-Gómez, any discussion about the concepts of perception, contrast, speed, movement and time, refer to the phenomenological tradition in which Celibidache’s thought is inscribed. As for Dr. Irma Susana Carbajal, she gathers considerations that should be explored by other researchers: the construction of the conductor stereotype, created from cultural and historical traditions, and its repercussion in today’s world; the educational obstacles for the training of conductors; the study of the role of women as conductors in Mexico.
Dr. Carbajal’s work, “The man behind the maestro, the friend behind the man: Jorge Pérez-Gómez in the training of orchestra conductors” is a remarkable academic contribution, an example for professionals in theoretical and practical, artistic and scientific areas, and an unavoidable invitation to contribute from different perspectives to the research of contributions such as that of maestro Pérez-Gómez.
Currently, Dr. Carbajal’s book is being edited and will be published by the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes in 2023. The reading of this study constitutes in itself a pedagogy, and an entrance door that will undoubtedly enhance the understanding of the subject, to pedagogues, students and orchestra conductors, and even to anyone interested in the mysteries of this profession and its teaching.