Saturday, October 14, 2006

Eric and the Tree People ...

In a recent lesson I was working with a student on the last movement of Eric Ewazen's Sonata. One or two passages didn't have quite the right feel. After some fancy finger work with with Dr. Beat, I was able to have the metronome continue with only one click every measure (beat volume up, all others down).

It seemed the feeling of the piece changed before our eyes. Same tempo but, by feeling the larger beat, the music seemed to flow better.

Choosing on which level to experience the beat is an expressive tool that we sometimes overlook. When one thinks in quarter notes, it is more likely the music have a different quality than when one thinks in half notes or even whole notes.

Is this my imagination??

DISSERTATION ALERT:
Have subjects learn and play the same passage at the same tempo but one group is thinking in quarters while another thinks in halves and another in whole notes. Have others listen to recordings of these performers. Can they discern a difference?
END DISSERTATION ALERT (Resume normal blogging)

I was trying to think of some story to go along with Ewazen's music. The opening passage (of the third movement) feels like people rejoicing on the ground. Later passages take on a more peaceful quality almost like angels floating above all this commotion.
No, angels aren't quite right. Druids? Monks? Who experiences time on a slower scale than humans? How about trees? That might work...oh yes, what about those tree people (Ents) in Lord of the Rings? They would probably prefer to hear the Ewazen Sonata on the whole note level.

Squirrels on the other hand ....

Of course if you really want to stretch your time scale out, consider some of the concepts thrown out in Greg Bear's creepy book Vitals.

What about choosing a time scale of subdivision other than for the obvious practice utility of rhythmic accuracy? Well, when encountering a slow excerpt like St. Saens 3 or Schumann 3 (or even the opening of Mahler 3 [what's with all these big "3" excerpts] ) I find I play better when thinking 8th notes. It seems to keep the air from becoming stagnant.

Who knows, maybe I'm just giving Self 1 something to do so it doesn't get in the way.






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