Thursday, May 9, 2013

Words and Music

There is always a strong connection between the two, whether explicit or not, in the instrumental composition of anyone who composed for the voice.  It is as if the word is hiding in there somewhere.

The other day I heard a video of a Dowland song, performed excellently by two outstanding musicians.  Though lovely, there was something unsettling about it: I called it a conundrum.   It being a song I do not know, I looked it up on line, printed it out and worked on it.

At first hearing I had noticed that a particular note in the song needed some emphasis it was not receiving.  The melody uses very few notes, is short, and has a lot of repeats. But the fact that I was constantly tripping over something made it difficult for me to figure it out as I listened.

Studying it revealed the answer: What looks like a repeated bar turns out to be a cleverly disguised variation.  In this case a dotted-half, shortened to allow for a breath at the end of the first phrase, by contrast, at what looks like the corresponding bar at the "end" of the third phrase, becomes energized on the third beat (on the dot!) to elide with the following two bars, causing the particular note that I had heard as pivotal to take on two entirely new degrees of emphasis.  This entirely upsets the song's seeming symmetry.

As much of this period's music is about fickleness I find this very a propos.