Friday, September 24, 2010

Two extraordinary lessons in rhythm yesterday: one a teenager just learning her way around Beethoven. We started with the definition of Allegretto in 3/4. It cannot mean a straightforward quarter note beat because I believe that "-etto" implies an eighth-note pulse. Are there any eighth notes? Sure enough they were all over the place but hidden, as it were, in dotted quarter notes (what is a dotted quarter if not a 3/8 value?.

She sightread the movement as an eighth-note piece rather than the plodding 3/4 piece I have always heard and played myself when her age. The result was a fascinating reading of a piece that otherwise can feel quite pedestrian.

Later came a mature woman, very experienced pianist but not a good sight reader, with a Brahms Intermezzo in 6/8. What do you know about 6/8? Two strong beats to the bar. Really?

It turned out not that simple. Her delight was boundless.

Again, it is a piece I had always heard and played myself (or attempted to play) in a conventional 6/8 meter.

The point is that "'taint simple, McGee!"