February 15 edition
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February 16
  Musicians with a Mission: Seneca Manor / Seneca Village

Now on PianonoiseRadio: Isn't it Romantic?
This week's featured recording for 2.15.19
Rondo alla Turca from Sonata in A Major, K. 331
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (transcribed for the organ by the Webmaestro)

 This week on the blog:    from Friday, February 15, 2019
     the blog also publishes on Mondays and Wednesdays. Go here to read those.
Who's that again?


I was blurbing down the highway, which is the best time to be concentrating on classical music. In the car. On the Radio.

The station was in the middle of a piece of music. Since pieces of classical music can sometimes take hours, this was not so unusual. But I wanted to know something about the piece. Specifically, who was playing the piano. I'd heard the music about a billion times before, so that wasn't an unknown. But who was playing it?

Unfortunately, I thought that bit too loudly. Then a sophisticated bit of AI in the radio antennae must have penetrated the tinfoil hat I wasn't wearing. It said, hmmm, he wants to know who the pianist is. This information was relayed to the on-air personality, who waited the necessary 25 minutes until the piece was concluded, and then, just to make it fair, made sure I was in the middle of a tight turn between a semi and a bus going through a tunnel over a patch of ice so I really needed both hands on the wheel and couldn't turn up the radio. She chose just that moment to quickly mumble the name of the pianist as the first two words of the sentence while her voice was still warming up and gaining pitch and volume. She then relayed the name of the piece and the composer, which I already knew, at full volume and more drawn out. She was smiling as she said this, knowing she had won again.

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He was going too fast, I thought. I couldn't help thinking that Mozart would have shared my opinion. I am guessing that based on a letter to his father in which Mozart complained about the speed at which some fellow raced through his piece, and another in which he complained about that practice in general.

But what it might really have come down to wasn't that actual speed, per se, but that he was playing the piece in a way that made it sound fast. And I began to imagine reasons for that.

I was in the car at the time.  As I pulled into the parking lot, a Mozart sonata had come on the radio, as played by some fellow who had won some international competition or other. Recently, I think. And I wondered whether that had anything to do with his treatment of Mozart.

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....I think it was famed conductor Arturo Toscanini who said "tradition is nothing but the last bad performance." It seems safe to assume he wasn't interested in what everyone else thought you were supposed to do with a Beethoven symphony.

This seems to be where music and politics diverge, when a strong, charismatic figure decides to do things his way without caring what others think. It seems that way, anyway. But often, that individual is also appealing to precedent--if not to tradition, which may be as recent as yesterday or storied in the past, it is The Composer's Authority. That's because, like our political system, the assumption in art music is still very much that the composer is the final authority. One way to buck precedent without getting in as much hot water over it is to appeal to originalism, which is precedent raised to the third power. Bypassing the traditions that have 'corrupted' the original intent of the composer, the performer seeks to 'restore' (with or without the aid of a committee of historically informed musicologists) the true and proper way to approach the piece. On the supreme court, justices argue about who is realizing the intent of the founding fathers most accurately. But no one says they aren't interested in what the founding fathers think about the issue. They may find creative ways to justify what seem to be new interpretations, but justify it they do. And they accuse their opponents of being false to this tradition.

Much like the way harpsichordist Wanda Landowska settled an argument by telling a rival, "You play Bach your way, dear, and I'll pay Bach his way."

Precedent is a strange dance.

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 (the last bad performance?)

On the Nature of Harmony:  

(Orthodoxy and the Overtone Series) What makes harmony so--er, harmonious?

The first time I saw the overtone series my reaction was immediate. "Is this why people prefer major chords and other 'pleasant' harmonies and don't respond well to others? Is this what consonance and dissonance are all about?"

My presenter was a college-aged tutor at a summer music camp. She didn't know; probably hadn't thought about it. She took my question to the chairman of the theory department. I don't recall getting much of an answer from him, either. Maybe he just didn't want to open that can of worms.

Let me explain. Whenever you strike a note on a piano, or play one on a clarinet, you are not simply listening to that one note. There are countless other notes quietly humming about in different gradations of loud or soft, all of them below our threshold of conscious hearing.


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