Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tones as Imagery

Drawing to a close my work on Schumann's Waldszenen, I recognized my reluctance to trust the extent to which I believe in tones as capable of transmitting imagery.  I knew it to be the case in this mysterious cycle, but was at a loss to penetrate the degree to which it is at the very heart of the  music.

Then I took a lesson from my own work on the emotional complexity of Mozart's G minor Piano Quartet, the book I published in 2013, and struggled to find colors to correspond to the elusive emotional message I discern in Schumann's piano work.

First conundrum: What color is mystery?  From there:  What color is the opposite of mystery - especially given a forest setting.  Once having selected these two I was on my way.  Lo and behold! as I worked out the color schemes of each of the nine pieces the colors of nature are the fundamental givens in all of them, with mystery at the center in most cases.  Altering those tones yields spottings of wildflowers amid the shadows.

Two days ago I thought it couldn't be done.  What gets in the way is schooled hearing.  Too many times we hear two tones of the three that make up a triad and we simply supply the missing tone -- the one the composer artfully left out.  It is a Mozartean device, leaving questions of major vs. minor to be negotiated one moment at a time.  It is highly dramatic.  It is also hard as can be to listen that way.

Today I am elated.