Friday, May 10, 2013

Function vs. Sound

Being quick I figured out function long before I had any theory training: I figured it out as does everyone who wants to accompany singing at a party, for instance. 

I figured it out so well that it made me unable to hear the subtleties of voicing that transform function into something more mysterious, hard to name or define.  Two examples come to mind:

Schubert Waltzes.  How tedious they seemed to me until I freed myself from that pat analysis in which everything is predictable.  How to approach these boring pieces? I suggest playing only the black keys, relishing the odd doublings, only then reconstructing them, white keys and all.

My young student's adventure with a simple Burgmuller etude.  She played it exquisitely, with half pedal throughout so that there were thousands of sounds happening every instant--that is, until she wanted to play it in a program at school.  The music teacher told her that in order to perform it she would have to use full pedal and change it on every bar line.  Being ten she did not, could not, object.  Result?  One sound per measure.  Utterly pointless and hopelessly boring.

By the way, it was her own idea to use the pedal that way: she had heard the older kids do it and loved the sound.

What is wrong with loving the sound?