Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The other evening I was reminded of how visual analysis has hampered our ability to hear the piano talk to us. Someone had to show me the bell effect of a repeated black key amid white keys. This effect, which occurs in a great deal of European music, is easily missed because the tone usually fits right in with the prevailing harmony. But there it is, plain as day, once the ear has been primed to pay attention to the coloristic differences between black and white keys.

The tolling bell evokes death. That simple sound is almost completely missing in our culture: too bad! It surely was a sound that made a community grieve together -- or celebrate together as the bells rang out to announce a joyous occasion.