Sunday, June 23, 2013

Christopher Houlihan: Again Bravissimo!

Today it was laugh out loud joyous wit and lyricism in the Bach Fantasy and Fugue in G minor, played from memory, stunning in every respect.

The utter focus of his playing is the source of extreme delight, redoubled in that it so focuses my attention that I am haunted by a specific dissonance, and by the power of metric motives balanced by exuberant ornamentation.

If the playing were merely virtuosic I would not respond like this: there would be no musical traction.  Houlihan grasps the vocal impulse behind Bach's organ music so that the listener is moved on many levels at once, and between levels without belabored transitioning.

Highest praise.

Recognition and Empathetic Listening

Recognition is a funny word:  I recognize snippets of familiar songs in all kinds of music -- though the other evening I was told by the composer that I would recognize references to a work that I think I know extremely well and they were nowhere that I could find them....  Then there is the other kind, public recognition, fame.

Recognizing oneself in the experience of music is a great basis for a rewarding listening experience--it can be any aspect of one's past or present, visible or invisible self.  I think this is the basis for what I call empathetic listening.  Maybe another word is participatory.

Recognizing themes and tracking structures seems to me to be totally irrelevant to this kind of listening.  Rather than encourage warming up to experiences of sound it puts a barrier between listener and player that didn't used to be there.

I think of that huge wall separating the Israelis from the Palestinians, or the wall being proposed for the Mexico-U.S. border.  What terrible images they are.