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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


So the first thing is the concept of the "artistic vision." You need to think of what the piece is going to sound like. For Mompou, Música callada X, I can think of it as swimming through molasses, or as a child's music box. I have to have an overall interpretation, and also a way of directing each phrase toward that aim. People say that Western classical notation doesn't work for jazz. Fair enough, but the notation only gets you so far in classical music. You have to know how you want it to sound.

 Being a literary guy, I use words to describe what I want the music to sound like.  I may not achieve that, but if I don't have a conception of what it is supposed to be, then what will I achieve?  

So I need to listen to what it sounds like. I need to record myself but also listen each time I play. My choir director says, "Listen harder than you sing." Every musician knows that listening is more important than producing the sound.

The piano has dynamics. Piano means soft, so the dynamics really means being able to play as soft as possible (Feldman).  Loudness is pretty easy. Pianissimo playing is not weak, it still has an assertiveness to it. My concept of voicing was what notes to play (in jazz), but in classical playing it is what note within the chord to bring out. Obviously the melody note on top, usually.

Then phrasing. Bringing out the linear dimension and the structural elements.  


Vance Maverick said...

Voicing in both senses applies in both genres. In classical music the spacing of the notes in a chord is generally the composer's choice (except in continuo and organ improvisation). In jazz, the coloration of the chord by how the individual notes are struck (loudness and, I think, timing) is important too -- Bill Evans!

I would say that your desire for a verbally formulated interpretation is a sign, not that you're literary, but that you're academic. I don't mean this in a bad way. But a non-teaching poet can work with a nonverbal intention. And a professor of music, however musical, has to be able to talk or write about the work.

Jonathan said...

Often it's synesthesia. So I think in terms of colors or textures. Making a chord sound smoky or bright, or thinking of a particular melody line sound like someone swimming through molasses. I do verbalize these ideas, it's true, in part because language offers the possibility of referring to all the senses. All the best metaphors for music are synesthesia.

Also, as an academic, as you say, I'm trying to find a way of writing about music, which a lot of people cannot do at all, I've found.

Vance Maverick said...

I'm not synaesthetic. When I try to envision what I want to compose, the "vision" is an obscure thing related to the experience of listening, including sometimes sound but more often the kind of feeling of participation, metaphorical movement, that I get from music as listener. This is arguably a problem, in that it leaves me with little basis for judgment about how the actual piece meets the goal.

My teacher suggests writing a kind of outline, a terse factual description of the piece section by section -- in my case, that will already be a considerable leap beyond the intention or desire. I've tried it a few times, and it's a useful intermediate. But the obscurity of the real intention or desire means I'm often tempted to drop the plan along the way.

Jonathan said...

I need a composition teacher.

I was thinking more of playing than composing in this context. There's a particular passage I want to feel like "velvet." Is the overall effect stormy or dreamy? I'm not intensely synesthetic but certain things bring it out it me to some degree.

Vance Maverick said...

I'll bet your choir director could suggest someone. It's useful even if they don't have a concrete syllabus to put you through.