A little zonked — still recuperating, it seems. No new musical activities to report. Lots of sleep to report, though. And a really shitty virus that pretty much erased the entirety of last week form my brain and life.
So this is what I’ve been working on — give a listen! Track descriptions are as follows:
01 Standard: As close to the flavor of the original as I can get on a piano.
02 Swing: Haendel the honky-tonk piano player!
03 Jazz: Haendel gets into a cutting contest with Art Tatum. (He loses of course because hey, Art Tatum.)
04 Debussy: Haendel gets hit on the head and wakes up thinking he’s an absinthe tippler in Impressionist Paris.
Next theme up for the treatment will be either the intro to “Se fiera belva ha cinto” (which is so catchy you need to be vaccinated when you’re done listening to it) or the beautiful intro to “Con rauco mormorio” which will turn you to a happy pile of mush.
I wish the thing didn’t require me to hold such a goofy, cocked-up posture to play it. That’s a big advantage to the piano; you just sit at it. It’s ergonomically pretty low-impact. The viola requires one to hold a position generally not held by anyone but a shoplifter after being apprehended by a cop who knows aikido.
Every time it stops being “now,” I get lousy on the viola. Every time I start thinking, “I did that already, I’ve got that,” or “I have to plan ahead for learning X,” it gets screechy and messy. The only time I am any good on the thing is when I pick it up and just concentrate on what I’m doing there and then. I guess this is part and parcel of not being “native” in an instrument.
This is one of my favorite musical interviews ever — Rachel Barton Pine’s conversation with Oakland East Bay and Sacramento conductor Michael Morgan. Engaging, interesting, insightful, funny … One of the best.
One of the things that Morgan mentions here is something that I fear can often be misunderstood or misapplied in a damaging way. Partway through the conversation, he remarks that orchestras must:
1) reflect the tastes of their community, and yet
2) be constantly trying to broaden these tastes.
I think “broaden” is the wrong word. It’s too easy for beltway insiders of any kind to interpret the word “broaden” as “force them to like what I like.” I’ve had too many experiences with Comic Book Guys in all arenas that demand that other people “broaden their minds” by agreeing with them. And given the amount of snobbery in the classical music world, I think this tendency is more likely to occur than not, and hence active measures need to be taken to make sure this particular reaction doesn’t engage.
I would prefer the word “investigate.” I think this reflects better the idea that the orchestra may not know where the investigation will ultimately lead. Part of being in an orchestra, as musician or conductor, as Morgan says, is having “no idea what’s going to happen.” Or having no idea where the investigation of a community’s tastes will lead. It may lead them to rhetorical-your favorite contemporary super-obscure hipster composer … or it may not. Let it happen how it will happen. Ride the wave, but don’t waste your time trying to steer.
This is part of what Morgan calls “permission to hate” a piece, but again, given the amount of snobbery in the current classical music culture, I think that the distinction between broadening and investigating needs to be explicitly described.
After listening to these tracks and discovering that they didn’t entirely suck … at least not compositionally … I opted to reupload them on SoundCloud.
Anyhow — here’s my stuff! Give a listen and enjoy!
If you get a “404, we couldn’t find that playlist” or “can’t connect to server” error, just reload the page. SoundCloud gets pissy sometimes.