Sunday, July 28, 2013

Attention and Definitions

It is striking how pieces of music have become "things" instead of embodied experiences.  Consider the "Moonlight" sonata from the standpoint of the player.  What is there in either the first or last movement that compels but really compels attention? 

To me these two movements epitomize all that is boring in music: repetitive patterns, obsessively predictable beats.  I maintain that this boredom constitutes an imperative to dig deeper, to seek elsewhere, to ask for more and don't stop until you attain it, and by "more" I do not mean faster and louder.

My own boredom has led me to observe words in Beethoven's tempo indications.  I now believe that Presto means that the note values that determine speed are not quarter notes but the smallest note values in the composition, whatever they be.  This makes Presto fundamentally different from Allegro, which is a quarter-note-based concept consisting of the ratio of 4:1. 

Such shifts in metric basis make for some pretty interesting insights into all of Beethoven's Presto movements.