February 19, 2006

Tuning Lesson, and more

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted. A minor wave of schoolwork, plus wanting to finish off a substantial song cycle that I've been working on for a while (more on this later) have kept me away from the ol' soapbox.

A couple days ago, I began my self-instruction in the art (definitely not a science for me just yet) of piano tuning. It seems like something all pianists should try at least once. Getting to encounter temperament as a practical rather than historical/theoretical issue gives one a much different understanding of the matter. What made the experience especially wonderful and occasionally overwhelming to me was the very intense tactile relationship I got with sound. I say tactile, because with so much of my musical life spent in front of a piano, I tend to think of music as something one interacts with through touch. Instead of "touching" a quantized set of pitches (12TET), I could push around the 12 tones to wherever I wanted them to be. It's the same as the difference between homebrewing/making your own bread and going store-bought all the time.

NB: If I post in a few months about how 12TET is unbearable sewage to the ears and how I've started composing in a new and wholly impracticable scale of my own devising, this is where it all started.

Random observation: Kyle Gann's posts on "metametrics" haven't been picked up too much by people in the (post-)classical end of the blogging world, but they've found (at least) a couple big admirers in the jazz world. Will post-minimalism and totalism find second lives among jazz composers?

The song cycle I just wrapped up sets six poems from Facts for Visitors. It's a pretty big piece (the biggest for me yet) — 18' of songs and interludes for tenor/fl/ob/hrn/bass. The texts deal primarily with "miscarriaged" relationships, damaged either through personality conflicts or something more unusual. The narrator usually involves himself in the relationship in a peculiar way. "Everything" (the first poem I set), describes a "relationship" between two people who never met. The narrator implies that they might've become close if they did actually meet, but they were both "victims of circumstance."

In the texts (particularly in "Everything"), the narrator is more attuned to the little behaviors that push around these relationships than the people who are affected by them. The way I read it, had these people been more attuned to each other, they would have been more likely to live happily ever after. The sequence I used starts off with a relationship at its most disconnectedness (description of problem), moves into the consequences of not paying attention to other people (development and climax), and finishes off with an example of two people who appear to connect for a moment (resolution/conclusion). This progression is the definition of tried-and-true, but I'd rather be understood than be clever. I initially had some structural ideas that better reflected aspects of the poetic content, but they were more easily seen than heard.

While I deal with getting this project performed, I think it's time to spend a little time in R&D (i.e., doing lots o' piano music). Big/bold/dramatic/rhetorical is fun and satisfying to put together, but now I'd like to go after something a little different.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Whose/which piano did you lay your mercy-less fingers on?