AGH Notation and playing by ear

How the hell have we gotten to a point in musical instruction where people can’t even fathom how one learns to read music AND play by ear? Holy crap. Are we really that bad off where these things seem so polarized that we can’t even conceive of them coexisting in the same brain without violating some physical law? This is ridiculous. This is beyond ridiculous! Do we really think that musicians are automatically in a situation where we have to choose between being mute or illiterate?!

Anyone who actually asks this question should … well, okay I can’t think of anything that matches the crime in this case. Holy mother of god, people. I can understand how someone would naturally lean in one direction or the other, but to introduce the word “only” or to imagine that it is impossible to do one if one learns to do the other is just … agh.

Back and happy

No details, but things worked out in the absolute best case scenario, so we’re all thrilled and relieved. :-) And I’m back at my piano and actually bothering to learn someone else’s dots, which amazes me. I finally decided it was time to poke around with Albéniz’s “Asturias,” mostly because I am mulling doing the last “Se fiera belva ha cinto” variation in that style. Not sure how well it will work in a major key (B Major), but we’ll see. For now, I’m just busy:

  1. being wildly relieved,
  2. shoveling out my inbox at work, and
  3. doop-de-doo-ing around with “Asturias.”

I just love the piece. It really stretches the “sound” that a piano is capable of, and as a result works well with almost any multi-voice instrument. I’ve heard it on a guitar of course; in fact, I initially thought it had been written for that and was surprised to find out that it was a piano piece. I’ve heard it on a dulcimer, and I’ve heard it on a harp, which is probably my favorite instrument for it. (I started listening to it on a violin, but the gentle stream of 16th-notes in the opening turned into a frenetic, nervous, overcaffeinated thing on a violin which made my feet itch, and I clicked back. It’s just not a good piece for a bowed string instrument. Bowed tremolos are tense and nerve-wracking, and usually mean that the monster is about to leap out and eat someone.)

I like the strange way the piece gets its ideas across on the piano, with the constant stream of dancing 16th notes and a relatively simple melody woven into the stream, along with the variations of feel and flavor in its later sections. I may end up petering out and getting sucked back into “Se fiera” if something shakes loose during this, which will achieve what I’m aiming for, so I won’t angst about it too much, but nevertheless I would like to get this piece down. It’s the sort of varied, complete universe of a piece that would make me happy if it were the only thing I ever wrote.


I have one more arrangement of “Se fiera belva ha cinto” to go, then I start poking around for another aria from “Rodelinda” with a nice intro. I could mull over which one I’d like to use, but I really have no idea which one’s going to spark something in my head. I’ve said that I like “Sospetti, affetti, e timori,” and I do. It might be that — but it might be another Senesino tune. I do like the ones that sit in that area of the voice best. Then, I want to move onto a bunch of ragtime arrangements of full arias from “Giulio Cesare,” but that may be competing with a few other things rattling around up there.

So for now, one more take on “Se fiera,” and then I’m 75% done and down to only one more aria intro.

More patience

I sometimes get annoyed at myself for being at work and wanting to get home to the piano, and then getting home and feeling utterly enervated. Then, I remind myself that I used to have to mark the start and end dates on my pieces, and now I don’t bother because they’re done so much more quickly. Clearly, I’m getting better at this. Not that my early stuff was bad, but it took me a lot longer. I’ve got something else for “Se fiera” rattling around upstairs, so there is a chance that I will have whipped through three complete arrangements of this aria intro in what feels like sixteen seconds.

Between pieces

I still need to record and upload a demo for the impromptu-version of the intro for “Se fiera belva ha cinto,” but it’s done. So I’m between pieces at the moment and not in the mood to start anything new. Meh.