Monday, March 31, 2014

What We Pay for Progress

The economics of music is a funny subject, worthy of serious study on the part of all music students.
These days it tends to take the form of survival tactics: what you have to do to "make" it in today's world.  Good luck.

It might be more meaningful to consider the subject historically, as did Frank Loesser in his wonderful book Men, Women, and Pianos.  Loesser makes a point of describing the scene onto which the piano emerged and in the context of which it morphed into the piece of household furniture we all know and love so well.

Yesterday I had an eye-opening experience that did not directly involve a piano, but a violin bow.  Working with an intelligent and enterprising violinist, with whom I have not previously collaborated, we are studying the "Spring" Sonata of Beethoven--one of those over-played, under-examined required works from which violin teachers should be given a twenty-year recovery period in which to pose some essential questions....

Gregor Kitzis, who also plays Baroque violin, made the brilliant observation that the modern bow did not exist in 1801, when this sonata was written.  Yesterday he brought his Baroque bow and the work was completely transformed by the subtle, light, flexible attack and release values of this instrument--for the bow is as much an instrument as the violin itself.

I laughed aloud at some points, so amused was I, and so dazzled.

Progress in the form of projection into larger and larger performance venues has made it almost impossible for us to hear the "pre-progress" elements of so much music that we know only in over-projection mode.