Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A development in modern composition pairs the piano with percussion: perhaps it was Bartok who started the imagination moving in that direction with his Music for Two Pianos and Percussion. How different from the early days of the piano when the fascination was with the piano as a stringed instrument, capable of many acoustical effects in common with stringed instruments, therefore compatible with them in duos, trios, quartets and so on.

As concert halls grew the sound of the piano became more and more steely--more percussive. The sustaining, shimmering, accepting acoustics of the instrument were no longer audible, except close up. And how many public events took place in small rooms? Everyone knows that is not cost-effective.

So the percussionists moved to front and center and it is their sounds that pianists match, even when playing solo.

Please don't misunderstand me. One of my dreams since childhood is to live in a home with one entire room filled with gongs, drums, bells, triangles -- the whole nine yards. I love percussion and greatly admire the increasingly subtle musicianship of percussionists.

But even more than percussion itself I love the piano's versatility and bemoan its loss. Why can't one learn to play this amazing instrument both ways?