Thursday, May 1, 2014

Treacherous Passages Perhaps Actually Meaningful Passages

On the morning of the day I write this post (not the same day as its publication) appeared an obituary article in the NYTimes.   The deceased was a music critic and writer of program notes as well as a performing musician.

I was struck by the comment of a friend of his, a pianist, who pointed out that he would never read the aforesaid critic's program notes before a performance as the writer invariably directed the audience's attention to the treacherous passages.

I have been unable to get this out of my head.

What is a treacherous passage if not a gateway to a state of being unlike any normal state?

I was fortunate to study with a musician who taught as a given that there are passages that simply cannot be played stone cold sober.  There are, to be sure, several varieties of state outside of literal drunkenness, though that is not infrequently the one in particular evoked by the passage in question.  Sometimes it is ecstasy, sometimes a daring into the realm of  the unfathomable, musically as well as technically.

Why not leave such passages alone on the chance that, at one with the performer, the listener might be transported into the appropriate state?  Why build expectation of a train wreck?  All this accomplishes is to reinforce the inhibition that is stifling so much in what we call classical music.