Monday, October 7, 2013

Close-Up Listening

We are all so accustomed to listening from a great distance that we have forgotten how to listen close up--we have, in fact, forgotten how to play to a close-up audience.

So much is lost in the process.  It is as if sound has had to be enlarged even to be audible (translated: children have to bang) and we listeners no longer know that it is the edges of every sound that make it meaningful.  (In this regard I always think of the burred lines in Rembrandt etchings.)

The most close-up listening I do is when I sing a cappella with singers whose ears are not wedded to equal temperament -- yes, there is an audible difference; when I accompany singers on the piano--an art I practiced for several decades and very much loved; and when I play chamber music with genuine artists who match my listening.

I am in the midst of just such an experience, this time working together with my son, Jacob, on Beethoven's Sonata Op. 17 for natural horn and piano.  The instrument joined the family a couple of years ago. I had never worked closely with it and find myself in the rare privileged position of getting to know a sound together with my son, who is an avid amateur horn player.

We hear and respond to overtones, not just the notes.  The music evokes a constant state of discovery.  Demonstrations of the sound will open the Tuesday programs in my forthcoming series on Mozart: The Radical Ear, to take place third Tuesdays and followings Thursdays October through January.  E mail for more information.