Saturday, June 28, 2014

Generic Just Won't Do

My favorite illustration of generic remains the memory of what happened on a Sunday afternoon thirty years ago.  During an afternoon open house.I answered the doorbell to behold two completely unidentifiable young women.  Clearly struck speechless by my inability to recognize them, I was restored to myself when one of them said, "It's okay!  We're generic!"

It was my daughter and a friend who, having just completed an entire day as demonstration subjects for a beauticians' convention, were coiffed and made up to look like everyone else.  Their persons had become completely invisible.

Last night I chanced to hear for the second time on the radio a startling recording of Schubert's Moment Musicaux, No. 1 played by a lyrical Portugese pianist.  I recall my reaction at the first hearing:  This is a sensitive, insightful player, though the reading in no way resembles my own.

I looked her up on the Internet where there are videos of her playing.  I detected what I identify as post-recording (the musical equivalent of post-modern?) piano technique, i.e., playing in which finger legato does not exist, where the action of the dampers is therefore so controlled that sympathetic vibration virtually disappears.  This alters every connection in the piece, from one note to the next, one phrase to the next.  It is finely shaped generic playing made to save time in the recording process: the very kind of result I seek to prove inadequate to the player, the composition, the listener.