The wind is blowing here in Western Michigan this morning. It was especially nice before I turned on this silly computer which has a loud hum.
Today I am going over to my friend Jonathon Fegel’s house presumably to do some recording. I find myself in an odd space mentally these days. I seem to be hungry for some reading and thinking. Consequently I am drawn to books by Charles Rosen like the one he wrote on the classical period and also Saint-Simon’s memoirs and some books on Jazz.
I have been memorizing an early Haydn sonata just to prove to myself that I can indeed memorize.
Rosen in his book on piano playing points out how difficult memorizing is for older players. thanks a lot. I’m trying anyway. I have about two pages sort of memorized. Early Haydn is simple and sectional. This is one of the two reasons I chose the piece I am working on… the other is that I marked it with a sticky as one that was so charming I wanted to keep coming back to it….. If anyone is keeping any kind of track of this it’s the Sonata in A (written before 1763) Hob. XVI/5; L8. I like all the movements.
There is a change that came over music in the last 25 years of the 18th century. This is the time of Mozart and Haydn. Rosen is especially insightful about this music. He points out that is rhythmic pacing is the pacing of comedic opera (emphasis on wit and elegance) and its phrasing is the phrasing of dance music. He cleverly points out how structure replaced the function of Baroque varied ornamentation. He is very convincing on this.
It’s sort of nice to have a group of significant piano sonatas by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven to refer to as I think about Rosen’s ideas. Rosen himself is a pianist. Another thing he says in his book on piano is that young concert pianists (of which I am certainly not one, heh) should play through the works of the great piano composers. He was startled to do master classes with top flight pianists in their twenties who had not read the piano works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Schuman straight through. He even calculates how long it would take them to read them. It takes me much longer than his calculations because I often play under tempo in order to play accurately.
But reading through these works has had a big impact on my piano technique and understanding of music in general.
This might seem to contradict my resistance to a perfoming canon of great classical and jazz music. But in my mind I distinguish between the need to study music and the needs that music fulfills in listeners.
Charlie Parker apparently listened primarily to classical music and then performed in the living style of his time. Miles Davis studied Prokofiev concurrently with his own innovations in music. These notions make imminent sense to me.
I do wonder about my own current sort of quiescence regarding composing and performing my “tunes” (i.e. what I call my bad paul simon songs). Recently I tried to rehearse “Coming up for air” and decided the song was kind of a piece of crap. This continous dance with your own creations is pretty regular for creators I think. Nevertheless it’s painful sometimes to consider the things you have made and how flimsy and ephemeral they actually are.
I also wonder about my relationship to listeners. Who are they? Do people pull down mp3s from web site? Do they hear what I perform at church and will soon be performing on the street? Who knows?