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This week's featured recording:  (9.20.16)  

Sonata on the 1st tone 
by Jose Lidon

Whether it was because "Ut" was just as spectacularly unattractive a syllable then as now, or some other reason a musicologist would know, church modes were organized beginning with "Re" which is why the "1st tone" is actually a D. Jose Lidon's Sonata, however, is not really in the old Dorian mode, but in D minor. A contemporary of Beethoven, his harmonic language had evolved, even if the terms used to describe it had not. And his single movement, short, binary sonata is more like Domenico Scarlatti's conception of the sonata than what Beethoven was doing across the Pyrenees. Innovation and new ideas don't catch on with the same fire everywhere, and Spain has always been pretty conservative in this regard. But that's not all bad. Instead of an attempted Romantic sonata in embryo, we have a distinctively Spanish composition, with its own character and flair.
 
Classic Blog   (updated September 20) The blogger returns in October
from the concert hall... Monday 12/14/15
Music in Space
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from the teaching studio... Wednesday 12/2/15
oops! (organ registration survival tips part four)
I have to stress that the church didn't explode!
from the organ bench... Friday 6/12/15
I'd like to be stubborn like that
You mean it doesn't just rain down from heaven? I have to study, too?

for September 20
from the blog...

first posted Monday, April 20, 2015

Notes on a Very Polite Train wreck

We're going to do some musical rubbernecking today.

A young fellow named Scott Joplin needed a way to generate some interest in his first publication. So he chose to title his piece after a recent bit of sensational news involving two trains and a lot of spectacular property damage. What he created from this real life destruction can be described as a musical train wreck.

harhar.

Actually, it is a pretty harmless little march, with a sonic representation of the train wreck itself in the last section. Now before we get there, there are three things to note about it.

First of all, you'll have to wait a few minutes for the collision itself, because, being a true march, it consists of a first strain, that repeated, a second section, that also repeated, and then we get to the trio. This is the part of  another march--"Stars and Strips Forever"-- that has been given words (Be kind to your web footed friend, etc.). That trio then has a "complicating incident" in which the low brass instruments go at it, complete with tense and dramatic harmonies, until we come out the other side and the trio melody sings again. That's the same part of the piece in which Joplin has his train wreck.

The second thing to know about it, before we get there, is that it's pretty wimpy.

If you were tasked with describing a collision in music, you'd probably be tempted to write some obnoxious loud cluster of notes in the bass that would assault the ears and really get the point across that something hellacious was happening. Not Joplin. He's too polite. His idea of musical chaos is a V7 chord. Like so:

[listen]

Not only is it not very disruptive (except, perhaps, for being in the bass, which gives it some rumble) but it even connects smoothly with what follows.

Ah, yes. What comes next. That's item number three. Now, if you listen to the aftermath of the train wreck, you'll note that the chipper little melody comes roaring right back. We all just had a really great time watching all those people die in that terrible locomotive disaster.

Egad!

Except that I did some more research and found out not to feel guilty about it. You shouldn't either. True, Joplin's piece is actually based on a real collision between two trains that happened in 1896. But it was a staged collision. That's right, people needed something fun to do, and the idea of slamming a lot of stuff together at high speed held a lot of mass appeal even then. In the days before monster truck rallies, or action movies (or Hadron colliders) this apparently was pretty entertaining.

We are assuming, of course, that the engineers managed to jump out before the collision and that nobody got hurt.

Oh, one more item. Because in a march everything gets repeated, you'll hear the collision part twice. This is before they had instant replay, or super-slo-mo, or reverse angles, or any of that, so Joplin's audience might have considered this to be a real privilege. It could even be an indication that Joplin was ahead of his time. But not really. He was just doing what the march form required.

Enjoy your collision.

Joplin: Crush Collision March



 




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