Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why the Beat May Be a Bad Idea

As a child playing the piano by myself I could not keep "the" beat.  The problem persisted into adulthood, baffling many people besides myself.  How come the problem vanished when I played other instruments, the organ, for example?  Why did I not have the problem when accompanying singers or playing together with others?

The answer, though obvious once you think about it, has taken me years to figure out.  It has to do with the difference between vertical and horizontal hearing.  Alone at the piano, playing music composed specifically for its acoustics, I was so fascinated by the qualities of mixed vibrations that I simply could not believe that time could be objectified.

Once others joined me in music-making the impetus to move forward blocked the power of those enticing mixes; the beat won.

One important clue to the validity of this observation is the tendency that I and many other pianists have to hold certain sounds too long.  Failure to release harmonies on time is a sign that harmonies crave duration.  Their vibrations, in order to mesh, must complete a certain number of cycles.  Interrupting that process is highly dramatic; takes conscious effort.

Awareness of this phenomenon is heightened by Tonal Refraction.  If it is a problem you have ever experienced, get in touch with me.