Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Signs of Boredom

Classical music so easily becomes boring when the signs are either ignored or entirely misinterpreted.  Take the bar-line, for example.

It is common knowledge that bar-lines indicate downbeats.  But not in the hands of an uncommon composer, pick one: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms....the list is too long for a single post.
The bar-line-downbeat is often counterindicated by a slur over the bar-line, indicating a weak beat where the downbeat was supposed to be.

Another, less readily understood counterindication is the sforzato on the strong beat.  If the first beat were really a downbeat the sfz would be redundant.  So what is it doing there?

Yesterday I was puzzling out for the millionth time the on-beat sforzati in the last movement of the Moonlight Sonata:  these bars are so boring when all the beats in left and right hand line up and then are accented on top of that.  But if the left hand is parsed in three's despite the obvious four-note grouping of the sixteenths then the sforzati become positively mesmerizing, which is what the sign indicates.  They also become incredibly difficult.

Difficult is never boring.