Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Joke's on Me!

Clementi did it again, bless his heart!  C major Sonatina, the one you know from having heard it murdered too many times, third movement:  there are a couple of bars in a row that I have never liked.  Usually that means that I have never paid enough attention to them to realize what they really are.

Yesterday in and because of the company of my most disabled student and his older sister I realized the problem.  Isolating the two notes that seem to make no sense and that, in any case, stick out (a sudden interrupting high D and B)  I isolated those tones and asked the blind young man what they sound like.

It took a while, but nowhere near as long as it has taken me to figure it out:  "They sound like a bell," he said, "in fact, like a doorbell."  Doorbells sound that way, I explained, because of the cuckoo, a bird known to Americans only through their ghosts: doorbells, cuckoo clocks and, if we are lucky, 18th century music.

So there it has been staring me in the ear all these years, reference to a familiar annoying noise where I least want or expect it.  Incidentally, it provides yet another instance in which music is evoking an everyday sound that is completely erased from our lives, except for doorbells.

It is particularly wonderful that Clementi puts it into a piece intended for beginners.