***Warning: Hidden in the midst of these seemingly random observations is some stuff that some might find a little provocative.***
Here are some of this week's piano practicing and listening discoveries:
Albeniz's music has a high incidence of measures full of double flats along with interlocking and crossing hands. This makes for some disorienting reading. Certain pages of "El Polo" are easy-to-see examples. You can listen to Alicia de Larrocha playing this here starting around 7:30.
Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe contains bits of Valses Nobles et Sentimentales (or vice versa). They were written around the same time.
The first movment of Schumann Fantasy and the E minor prelude of Bach from WTCI have something in common in terms of left hand figuration and maybe a bit of the right hand pacing. Plus, the Bach is a little fantasy-like in its unfolding: a mysterious opening giving way to a lively second section followed by a highly chromatic, unusual, brief two-voice fugue - kind of Schumannesque. The two pieces might suggest some interesting parallels as the openers of two halves of the recital I'm preparing.
I started reading through the first two movements of Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata and might learn them in large part that way - by reading through them over the summer.
There are more than sixteen exercises in Persichetti's mirror studies. There are four sets of sixteen. So, I'll aim for three or so a day so as to make it through the entire book once a month over the summer, not once a week as I mistakenly thought the last time I posted!
Putting in two to three hours practice time each day this week feels a little like healthy exposure to the sun. I suppose one can overdo it a bit with practice and the sun, though, resulting in a general withering as a person in both cases.
Several events this week led me to a little reflection on our culture's emphasis on instant gratification. These happenings included discussion at a centering prayer meeting, lunch with my friend and colleague Paul Corrigan (check out his work on teaching and learning) , and a lovely concert by the Florida Southern Children's and Girls' Choirs.
It seems to me that the experience, aesthetic, and discipline of classical music are all tuned into process over time. The music comes from a world in which things were achieved more slowly and in a fashion that fostered an awareness of process. We participants in contemporary American culture have the luxury of living with little engagement with the importance of process to human endeavor and the temptation to focus a bit too much on always feeling entertained. I love that many in my parents' generation give us a living connection to a time when "spare time" was spent doing chores necessary for orderly living or with putting one's mind to solving a problem.
Our popular musical aesthetics, shaped by radio, require brevity, and because of that, more or less instantaneous appeal. But it's hard to take much of a musical journey in three minutes. The radio has also dictated that styles need to be pretty consistent dynamically, which eliminates one aspect of expressive potential. The result in the concert or worship setting is a few big dynamic moves that exist to give the listener a rush or a little impression of a large-scale formal move in spite of the absence of significant large-scale form.
I wonder if the next evolutionary step for humanity will be a step back from the engagement with process and higher-level thinking that help to distinguish us as a species. How ironic that such as step might be brought about by our ingenuity and technological progress. And so it is that one might become a passionate advocate for classical music as part of a larger mission to preserve what we believe it is to be human.
To my friends who are keeping the human focus on process in any musical styles, I applaud you!
A final discovery: while listening to a beautiful performance of Franck's Panis Angelicus sung by a quartet of four young men (members of the Florida Southern Childrens' Choir) the genius of Franck's canon in this piece dawned on me.