Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yesterday a young student was sight-reading Mozart's Sonata in G, K. 283, the last movement. In it Mozart repeats a chord four times--an unusual chord, not particularly pleasant, but definitely conspicuous. Laughing, the student said it sounded like a car horn.

That could not have been the sound Mozart had in mind; but surely he had something just as specific in mind--most likely a noise from everyday 18th-century life.

It is hard to imagine what it might have been, but one thing is clear: we live in an extremely noisy environment. In the few moments between the end of the preceding paragraph and the beginning of this one I was aware of many pitched sounds: the beeping of a bus backing up, a humming motor under my desk, a droning airplane flying past, plus two noisy thumpings: the heat in the pipes and my building's elevator.

Is it far-fetched to imagine that composers sometimes write so as to make us more aware of listening?