Sunday, June 2, 2013

I Hate Quarter Notes -- Except in Haydn Minuets

This post's title is lifted from one of my favorite songs by Leonard Bernstein: I Hate Music,  The lyric goes on to say, "...but I love to sing."  

I don't really hate quarter notes themselves.  What I hate is the reduction of every rhythmic event to some multiple or division of the quarter note.  The other day I ran across a copy of Clementi Sonatinas in which some brainwasher of a piano teacher had written, in red, "one-y-and-a-two-y-and-a" over some of the wittiest content of the piece.  Poor lambs, both teacher and child.

Today a student came in with the minuet from a  sonata in which Haydn plays the most wonderful games with quarter notes, sometimes using them as halves of half-notes ---- ah!!!  but which half?  We will never know for sure.  But in the meantime it would be good to free our imaginations from restriction to quarter notes uber alles, even going so far as to entertain the notion that a rest might have at least as much "say" about what is happening as an actual sounding note.