Monday, August 31, 2009

Your rubato is too predictable


The 24-hour classical music public radio station didn't get enough funding and had to move to a weaker signal. I can no longer just turn on the radio anytime and expect Bach or Shostakovich. Which is why the other night when I heard a Beethoven sonata on another public radio station, I was elated.

But only for a few seconds. My musician brain started to take command.

"No, no, no, you're being too stodgy with this passage. It is forte and has sforzandos but you still need to move the phrases forward, not weigh them down with this tempo plus the extra heavy touch."

"Again? Are you sure? You've already played this phrase in this exact manner of rubato in the Exposition, and you think you should do it in the exact same way? Has nothing happened in the Development section? Does the modulation cause no change? How can you treat it as if the music has stayed static?"

"That ending. Exquisite." Sigh in contentment

Critical: yes. Annoying: yes. Able to enjoy the music I love: only at the very end.

That's what devoting years of you life to studying something does; it sharpens your eyes and ears, it favors your critical-thinking, it spoils the easy enjoyment you've had when you first fell in love. But it also provides the delight of those rare and subtle moments when excellence is achieved that you wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't put in all those years in study.

Worth it?

6 comments:

tanita davis said...

Hahahaha!
You and I must *NEVER* sit in a concert together. Especially if there is both singing and playing, we'd be cringing together.

I believe it IS worth it, all of the study, all of the years of learning to sharpen the ears and identify the breaks and patterns and successes and failures. But some study has to be put into learning to disengage the critical, too. It's not worth not being able to ever appreciate music again. If doctors went around looking at everyone and seeing the percentage of illness in them as opposed to them individually as people, s/he would probably fail, after a time, to be an efficient or effective doctor. Sometimes you've got to turn it off... and rest.

T. Anne said...

I do hold look to my other passions to help in my writing. Life is the ultimate teacher.

Yat-Yee said...

My critical brain isn't that bossy at live performances. I am much more likely to enjoy the music. One of the magic of live performances, I become so much more engaged and mesmerized and in some sort of a zone. Except for student performances...

"...study has to be put into learning to disengage the critical" so true, yet I'm not sure how that would work. The only thing I do now is to ignore the critical when it speaks, repeatedly, and sometimes it gets tiring while other times it has worked.

MG Higgins said...

Ack, the double-edged sword of expertise. Is it worth it? Sure, I think so. When you hear those rare moments of musical "perfection" I have a feeling you appreciate them more than those of us who have never heard of a rubato. And that's got to be a good thing.

Cheryl Reif said...

Oh, this makes me laugh! I hope you're still working on the book that takes place at a music camp, because you have such rich details to bring to it.

I experience this very thing, altho for me the Critic's voice shows up most often to predict. It's rather annoying to be at the climactic moment in a book (or movie--my Critic isn't picky) and hear this little voice predicting what comes next. Kind of ruins the moment.

In the same sense, my Critic interferes sometimes with my enjoyment of less-than-perfectly crafted stories and articles. For instance, I listened to he first few FIVE ANCESTORS books on a recent roadtrip. I love the story, love the character, love the funny dialog and great Kung-Fu descriptions--but my internal copyeditor kept trying to replace overused words and correct poor grammer. So in that instance, my internal Critic definitely got in the way of my enjoyment.

And yet, those moments are balanced by the exquisite joy of reading something beautifully crafted. I know I get much more pleasure now from reading a particularly vivid description, scene, or plot twist.

I think it's worth it!

Yat-Yee said...

MG: thanks for chiming in. A rubato when a performer takes certain liberties with how fast or slow they play notes within a phrase. It allows the phrases to breathe and the performers to put their own stamps on the music.

Cheryl: I loved the first book of Five Ancestors so much I overlooked a lot of what you mentioned in the subsequent books. I have to say, though, i felt somewhat surprised when Mouse suddenly got a book for himself. All I can say is, Dragon had better to super, super great! Hear that, Jeff Stone? I want to see the same magic you brought to Tiger.