Friday, October 4, 2013

Tone Perception Visualized

I celebrate publication of Tone Perception Visualized: I  The Mozart G Minor Piano Quartet, the first in a projected series of Tonal Refraction publications.

Tonal Refraction is a method that permits an individual to visualize her perception of tone in a given composition on a given day: not attempting to be definitive, it gives permission to notice that one's experience of tone is infinitely variable, both acoustically and emotionally.

Color is a readily accessible means of depicting emotional association, but may also reveal acoustical resonance in interesting ways.  I might use blue for a particularly warm tone and find myself radiating out through greens toward yellow to explore its upper overtones, and through purples to red for lower resonance.

The grid allows for subjective responses to rise and fall.  Not every note that appears to rise actually conveys rising motion.  Just because a different finger on a higher key is needed to produce the notated pitch on the piano, for example, does not mean that the intention of the tone is to lead the ear upward.  Perhaps it is an ornamental tone, perhaps a kind of yodeled harmonic--the call is subject to subjective response which very much affects the way the music is played.

Tonal Refraction arose in my dreams upon my return to serious solo piano playing at the age of 57 after decades of being an organist and chamber musician.  To celebrate I programmed a recital that included Mozart's G Major Sonata which I was assigned at age 12.   It was as if the deeply troubling responses I had had as a child had remained frozen in my subconscious and now compelled visualization to give them substance.  Those responses informed my playing of the G Minor Piano Quartet, one of the most troubling works I encountered as an adult.

Tonal Refraction might therefore be said to be the work of a child.   It is why I take so seriously teaching children.