Thursday, November 4, 2010

Meter, ct'd

A friend of mine wrote me this long email discussing the philosophy of music. I wrote back, telling him the discussion was arcane, and sent him the link to my meter post, below. He accused me of irrelevance.

I remembered this piece I heard last year. My friend plays in a wind quintet. They played this piece, "Aires Tropicales." I heard it twice, once in a masterclass scenario, and then in their concert. Now listen to the beginning of the second movement. Where's the downbeat? Now when I first heard this movement, in the class, I heard it, as I'm sure you did, as the first image shown above. It's the only way anyone would ever hear it! After the bassoon goes on for a while, the other instruments join, but if you'll listen through to the youtube video, the rhythm just doesn't sound right for the entire movement. Then, in the masterclass, they projected the score on screen, and it all made sense. The bassoon ostinato is actually written as the second image above. But once you get it in your head the first way, it's impossible to get rid of it. Every time I heard it, for the rest of the class and then again in the concert, I tried really hard to hear it the right way, in this case not just because it was right, but because the whole piece sounds so much better the right way. But I couldn't do it.

(Apparently, neither can the clarinetist in that youtube video, who keeps tapping his foot on the faux-beats.)

Anyway, the point is, the metrical tension should be one of the most important aspects of this music, but it's completely lost when it's impossible to hear it the right way.

My suggestion: the basoonist should stomp at the start of the second movement to signal the downbeat, or at least breathe to the downbeat. I don't know if that would solve the problem, but it couldn't hurt. I mean, he's got to do something, right??

Point is: this happens all over the place. It's far from irrelevant!

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