Sunday, January 17, 2010

About fine quartet playing: Still in 2010 we are recovering from 100+ years of melody separated from harmony. Music sometimes works like that, but not always. It was interesting to hear Friday in the morning Steve Reich discussing resultant tones--i.e., the lines that result when lines are being played or sung in imitation, which has been happening since people started playing that particular game--and then in the afternoon to hear the Carducci Quartet play Beethoven so that the ear was drawn into the total sound event, not distracted by the surface sound.

This is the real reason why it takes four people to play a quartet: all contribute to a mysterious outcome that defies notation. The melody plus harmony solution is an over-simplification stemming ultimately from an understandable need to have the printed score make sense. There is more to it than that. There has to be, or it wouldn't take four people to make it come to life; it would require only one leader and three followers, which is what quartet playing--in fact, a lot of chamber music--has become.