Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tonal Refraction and the Limitations of Standard Music Notation

I have been reworking a Tonal Refraction of Schumann's Waldszenen, the subject of Vol. II of my series on Tone Perception Visualized.

It is a cycle of nine puzzles, some more puzzling than others.  The one currently foremost in my imagination is called Einsame Blumen and is marked to be played Einfach.  (Isolated Blossoms ?  to be played simply?)

I observe certain rules in making a Tonal Refraction: The tones under a slur rise if the last note under the slur is higher than the first, fall if the last tone is lower, and do not assert direction if the two notes are the same.  What a revelation this is when playing the work!

As a child I was taught that musical phrases go somewhere.  Here only some of them do.  Are those the isolated blossoms to which the title refers?  If so, the phrases that do not move are only increasing that quality of isolation.  What about the left hand articulations:  staccato eighth notes function very differently from sustained half notes under those right hand groupings.  Maybe simply observing these articulations is, in fact, the"simply" Schumann had in mind.

All I can say is that it is bloody difficult to do it.