A short update since it’s the middle of the work week and hence practice time is at a premium:
Have only added two bars so far, but they are working out well. I’m extremely heartened at the way the octave work that would have intimidated me as a kid is coming much, much more easily and entirely without intimidation. I have finally shaken off my fear of octaves, and it only took thirty years.
I am still struggling with measures 4 and 8, but I can feel the color of the struggle changing a bit. The difficulty is shifting and changing shape and becoming more malleable and a bit softer. I’m at least seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I suspect that is also simply age. I’m no longer becoming frustrated so easily and have more trust in my ability to work it out eventually.
I still need to work on my pedaling so that I’m not pedaling like a kid (overpedaling, in other words). I say “like a kid,” but a lot of the pedagogical things I learned as a kid I seem to play almost entirely without pedal. Overpedaling on those interminable run-filled sonatinas sounds like mush, though. I think it’s simply easier to overpedal on something as legato and shamelessly sappy as Grieg. There seems to be a book called “The Pianist’s Guide to Pedaling” which might be useful; I suspect I’ll just have to get used to not thinking of the pedal as a safety net to manage large leaps and annoying fingering. If I ever do retain an instructor again, my pedaling will probably be the first thing I’d like to have explored.
I am also planning to purchase a book on music theory and am quite excited about it. It will be Walter Piston’s “Harmony,” which seems to be the standard text for Western music; Schoenberg’s is not recommended for newbies, and I didn’t anticipate it would be. I agree that most of the best composers probably didn’t think theory all the time, but I’m comparing writing music to learning a language. Certainly, if one is fluent, one doesn’t think in terms of verb endings, plurals, and prepositions. But if one is going to learn a language, one must pass through a time when these things are consciously — and clumsily — done. The goal of course is to reach a point where that fog of conscious effort becomes transparent (fluency), and one speaks thinking only of one’s ultimate message. If one is proposing marriage, one wants to have their ultimate message in mind and not verb endings. Similarly, the greatest composers were and are “fluent” in music and can think of their larger message without stumbling over musical equivalents of prepositions. Alas, we mere mortals must start somewhere. 🙂
So this is my attempt to familiarize myself with the general grammatical rules of Western music. I’ve run into small part of it before — a major seventh resolves into the major chord a fifth down from the root, that sort of thing. I’d look forward to finding out more.