Thursday, November 8, 2012

Music to Scale, continued

Returning to Schubert's Moment Musical, No. 2, I would like to consider its rhythmic resonances.

The piece is in 9/8 with a characteristic alteration of dotted-eighth/sixteenth/eighth followed by a dotted half.  It is tempting to rush the third eighth into the following long note, though the slurring indicates at times an articulation of the long note separate from the group. This would imply movement not forward but resisting forward--a kind of melodic stasis.

Consider what seems to be the melody:  C D-flat C D-flat.   What if the real motion is from the first C to the second (long) D-flat, not from the second C to the long D-flat?  It changes everything, absolutely everything.  What seems to be still is made to move--again, like Degas's dancer.  What seems to move is actually resisting motion.

Such powerful reversals of customary rhythmic logic depend entirely on the pianist's knowing that every ear in the room can follow and will be unable to resist internalizing this profound contradiction.

When I play this piece in my living room for a small audience, as I did just last month, I know that it is a matter of life and death, not in any sentimental or abstract way.  It requires of me that I face every element that creates tension--I prefer the German word, Spannung, which evokes an image of  "from here to there"--and the musical elements that create that tension challenge the core of my vital self to a kind of quiet that transcends my will.

Once the contradiction is set in this special internalized motion every long duration is charged beyond measure.