Friday, June 21, 2013

Who Shut the Window?

It has always struck me that the reason European "classical" music -- starting who knows when?-- is so difficult to learn is that it was all composed with the windows open.  Whatever was in the air showed up in the music, somehow or other.  An Italian workman setting roof tiles, two drunks on a street in Prague harmonizing in thirds waking me up at 2 a.m. , a choir of nuns practicing their plainsong in a convent across the way--these are all sounds I have actually heard in Europe, starting with my first trip there in 1958, when all Italian workmen sang.  (Does anyone sing these days?)

I could spend a lifetime--in a way, I have spent my lifetime tracking down these references, often without a clue as to their origin. 

One important one was taught to me by my very wise piano teacher, Hans Neumann, bells.  Because he showed me how to recognize them in music, particularly in piano music, I find them where no one else does.

There is a tremendous amount of history in the sounds we hear around us and in our ability to recognize them.

Where have they gone?