Tuesday, December 29, 2009

There seems to be an oxymoron in yesterday's post: How can a percussionist's performance be moving? Isn't emotion in music associated with vibrato, rubato, and maybe some other -ato's, many of which have come to mean excuses for self-indulgent distortion?

The riveting part of any performance is attentiveness. A good percussionist has to be mindful of every vibration in the air so as not to disturb, but rather to enhance it. I wonder what would become of traditional music if the players of pitched instruments were less self-absorbed in their beautiful sound and more connected to the overall sound environment.

Some of the problem lies in laziness. Rather than attend to every note in a harmony as having potential for development (it often happens that a fine composer will specify different note values for each chord tone, as if to call attention to that potential) we homogenize easily-identifiable harmonies, making them conform to examples we already know. I know how to play a G major chord, so why should I bother paying attention to this one?

I know this flawed thinking all too well, having been guilty of it myself.