I was sitting in a roomful of musicians yesterday and had an insight I sometimes have about myself. Musicians tend toward passion if not obsession.
But I think we as musicians have different obsessions.
Most of the people I am talking about being with yesterday are concerned with organ and choral music.
I have always felt like the odd organist in that I am more interested in the music itself than the instrument. Organs can attract people who are interested in certain kinds of organ designs. There are competing schools of thought about what makes the most beautiful organ. Add to that the extreme diversity of what an organ can be.
In the world of pipe organs most of them are a one of a kind instrument. This is something many non-organists forget. If you have ten organs in a city, you have often have ten entirely different set-ups. From the number of pipes to the number of manuals (keyboards), from the way the pipe is being activated (electrically, mechanically or a combination of these two).
And critically how were the pipes themselves made? How were they designed?
The variables can seem endless. And all of them produce individual instruments with their own character for good or ill depending upon the obsession of the beholder.
I respect this obsession but do not share it very strongly.
I think that I am interested in organ largely because of Bach and church work.
Bach continues to draw me in as a player. One of the things about his work is that it survives bad organs and often bad players. I find this quality fascinating and attractive.
Of course there are many other organ composers I admire. But there are many many of them that I’m only interested in professionally.
Today I have scheduled a couple of pieces by a composer like that. His name is Gigout.
He was decidedly of the French romantic organ school which loved large effects on instruments emulating orchestral like textures. Here’s some of what the Groves online music encyclopedia says about him.
According to accounts by his contemporaries, Gigout, like Guilmant, played in a very clean style, which did not prevent him from performing the music of Franck with great intensity. As an improviser he is reported to have been eclectic, but was drawn particularly to classicism.
His organ music testifies to this ambivalence between a refined language derived from Bach, or certain passages in a classical style, and symphonic effects in the grand manner, sometimes making use of plainsong. Based on an aesthetic close to that of Saint-Saëns, his output is dominated by his organ works, completely overshadowing his piano pieces and mélodies
I am playing his Minuetto and Toccata from his 10 pieces this morning. I have learned the former for today and revived the latter.
I find Gigout tuneful and interesting to play. But I am not drawn to him musically the way I am drawn to other music.
So my insight about myself is that my obsession is a love of music. It is the music itself that has attracted me all my life. This includes a good amount of organ and choral music. But I would say it is mostly other kinds of music. And it includes a lot of stuff which I haven’t heard yet and am still seeking.
That’s the fun of it I guess.