Thursday, March 27, 2008

Doen Daphne d'over schoone Maegt

Music is sublime. Musick is the food of love. Music is boooooring.

At least I think that sometimes, despite devoting several decades to its study. Maybe it's because I'm only a sort of good, as opposed to a really good, musician, but sometimes music seems to hobble along in two dimensions where other art blooms in three or even four. Words rocket off through sound and lexicon and narrative arc, whereas music just gimps through pitch and time.

Sometimes, though, music turns me over its knee and larns me good. I've been playing a lot of themes and variation from the 1600s. These pieces are pretty self-explanatory: you start with a theme and get fancier and faster until you're jogging along in a forest of small black notes. It's the kind of thing that, given its improvisatory origins, should be performed memorized, so I've been playing it and playing it again. I was on my fourth or fifth go-round when I got to the end, stopped, and wondered: why don't we play it backwards?

I mean, whose idea was it to go forwards all the time, to progress, to grow, to develop? What's wrong with diminishment? Or with cycles: simplicity to complexity and back again?

So sneaky: narrative in music.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Yes...I've often changed the order of variations when performing van Eyck, so that it's not strictly me (and the audience) a chance to breathe a bit more. I just did the "Nachtegael" for a concert yesterday and while practicing I'd been thinking--why is the conceit that I'm a musician trying to somehow deconstruct birdsong and improve on it? What's wrong with actual birds?

So, I listened to some birdcall recordings (including nightingales, of course), figured out how to imitate some of the sounds with the instrument, and tried to sound a bit more like a bird imitating van Eyck than van Eyck imitating a bird...don't know if it was better or worse than a "straighter" interpretation, but it was fun, and the audience seemed to enjoy it.