Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Late Schumann, Again

Thinking about the intimate aspects of late Schumann recalls the intimate aspects of early counterpoint, the historical moment when a second voice was added to the plainsong.  The most intimate connection between the two voices occurs only when they share the same vowel on either a unison, a fifth, or an octave.  Then it is as if the single voices merge into one voice.

Poor musicians, not enjoying this disappearance, will deliberately play out of tune so that everyone knows they are still "there."  (I used to play with such a violinist.)

In the Op. 132 Schumann deals with the very unlike timbres of clarinet and viola by daring them, as it were, to merge within overtones, sympathetically reinforced or melded together by the piano.  But, given the instrumentation, these overtones are not the run of the mill string overtones.  They require some seeking after by all parties.  Clarinets do not resonate in the same way as violas.  Pianos can go with the flow -- can, in fact, direct the flow by not interfering with it.

None of this can be written down in standard notation.   This leads me straight into the next blogpost on Tonal Refraction.