Sunday, April 14, 2013

On the Brink

A student asked me how I know when music is inebriated.  Good question.

A related question: How do I know that something called "March" is not really a march but a spoof?  (Schumann's "Soldier's March" from Album for the Young, e.g.)

Doesn't all good music teeter on some kind of edge?  No one needs balance more than I do; I strongly dislike the sensation of being on an angle or tilted.  This bodily craving for many years took musical form in my pursuit of reliable successions of downbeats and upbeats, and for resolutions both melodic and harmonic.  Needless to say it was not a time of meaningful growth.

As a performer I inhabit the infinitesimally small units of time between beats and vibrations during which I wonder just when and where the next sound will or won't occur--I say "won't" because rests form an important part of that way of moving music.

As a listener I detect in much playing the performer's need for resolution in the lengthening of cadential note values and in the failure to observe articulations that indicate resolutions promised but not delivered.

I no longer play from memory because I know how easily I slide into these taps* and I want the composer's intention to be more present than my own needs and tendencies.

*A fascinating Freudian slip: I meant to say "traps" but rhythmic taps are, in effect, traps, as I point out on a post that will appear soon.  Stay tuned.