Wednesday, January 6, 2010

This blog is definitely contributing to making the world smaller. Before attending to my post this morning I received an email from a follower in Sweden who was deterred by cold weather from attending a concert the preceding evening. Feeling relatively secure in her company I confess that I, too, was deterred from attending the concert I had planned to attend by a combination of the cold and a cold.

Instead I wrote a brief history of music in the 20th century as reflected in the life of a pianist who had lived through 2/3 of it. It has occurred to me that my musical life has paralleled many aspects of the century's musical trajectories. It began with fooling around on the piano, no formal instruction, no notation, no model of how piano-playing should look or sound. From there it went to lessons with a Wagnerite. After a few decades surviving that fad came the plunge into the originality-crazed modernism-at-all-costs movements of the late 50's.

Saved by a love of the sound of the piano and by continuing involvement with vocal tuning (I am a dedicated amateur a capella singer), I realized the limitations of such modernism. At about that time many musicians became fascinated with music of earlier periods--having been trained as an organist Baroque music was familiar terrain for me. But here was a new approach to string and wind playing and to singing that affected the whole musical scene.

Composers and players alike began asserting their love of sound. It was happening not just uptown but also downtown, in the clubs where improvisers playing all kinds of "classical" instruments were fooling around, as I had done as a small child, but with chops.

It feels like a triumph of individuality over trends, of grounded exploration over regimentation. At least in music things seem to have opened up more than just a bit.