Friday, October 22, 2004

Melodies Heard and Unheard

This morning I went to Beanstreets for an hour or so before work. Had a cup of coffee and a bagel while I analyzed a Bach chorale. I think I'm getting better at recognizing which notes belong to the chords, and which are non-chord tones. It's not that hard, at least not at the early stage that I'm in. But it did take some brain-training. The music I analyzed today was for four voices, plus an oboe and two cornets. The oboe is my absolute all-time favorite instrument, besides, of course, the piano.



Here are my favorite instruments:



1. Piano

2. Oboe

3. Cello

4. Bassoon

5. Viola



Here are the instruments that physically hurt my ears:



1. Piccolo

2. Flute

3. Violin (when it plays high notes)

4. Most horns, particularly trumpets

5. Electric guitar



Here are instruments that my lovely dysfunctional ears translate as a muddy mess (sorry, oceanskies79!)



1. Double bass

2. Most percussion

3. Xylophone (oh, that's kind of percussionary, isn't it ...)

4. Tuba



I know. This is odd, that someone could love music yet have so little aural tolerance for so many of our wonderful instruments. My ears are just really weird, though. Imagine a sound system with the bass turned waaay up and the treble barely on at all. That's kind of what my left ear hears, when I don't wear the hearing aid. My poor right ear is the one I call my "vestigial ear." It's there for show. Doesn't work. Batteries dead.



For my "good ear," many tones either sound wrong (low tones are muddy and amorphous, and high tones are earsplittingly painful), or they don't sound at all. Really. A high note on a violin or flute has the same effect on my good ear as a nearby ambulance siren. So does a crying baby. Ouch.



Oh well. Enough navelly-ear-gazing. Or eerie navel-gazing. If I spent more time looking for my hearing aid, which is lost, and less time gazing eerily at my own metaphorical navel, I'd probably find it.



But for now, back to my imaginary friendship with the bewigged one ...



I so enjoyed analyzing the Bach chorale and orchestration this morning. I could imagine the instruments and sounds. Heard the music in my head. No ear-hurting, just music. Reminds me of that wonderful line by my old friend John Keats ...



Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard

Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;

Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,

Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone ...




At the risk of sounding really, truly corny, that's kind of how I want to compose. Figure out how to put the stuff I hear in my head--the ditties of no tone--down on paper. I know, it's silly to want to compose. But Beethoven did it. I'm no Beethoven, but heck, I at least have to try.



Now I have "then he pluck'd a hollow reed" running through my head. See what I mean about the slinkies on the brain?



OK, bach to Bach (ha ha) ...



As planned, I recorded myself playing the Bach Sinfonia last night. Found where some things were "wrong." The trills and turns were too fast, for one thing. They need to be more lilting, and less like a militaristic about-face. Then, the left hand wasn't even, tonally. That's one of the shortcomings of not playing regularly for many years. It's taking a while to regain my "feel" for the instrument. I'll think I'm hitting a quiet note, but it'll come out too loud, or it won't come out at all. So that's something I need to work on, and something that will probably just improve with time and practice.



I'm getting a sense of the three children on the beach, though. Made each of them play separately, then two together, then three, listening for each voice, isolating certain voices so I could really hear and appreciate what each was saying. It resulted in a severe case of several-hours-long pianokeysia, but it was definitely worth it. Dan had a meeting last night and didn't get home until late, anyway.



Music Theory lesson is today! Can't wait!



P.S. Now I'm listening to Rachmaninoff Piano Concerti. Sergei has me feeling even more melancholy that I did when I wrote the previous post. Heard melodies are indeed sweet (I'm groaning at my own mushiness now). But they really are.

No comments: