What a strange week it was.
Only yesterday I started to see again with (through) my right eye.
Iris got the flu and each day there were moments that I thought my head would burst…
Which means that only yesterday I was able to man my computer again in search of the right ideas for the upcoming sonata.
The only thing we could do, was listen to music. With closed eyes. New pieces, familiar pieces, masterpieces, run of the mill pieces. Debussy, Ravel and Strawinsky, the usual suspects scored once again. Other less (why did I ever like Roussel’s 4th symphony? Also Revuelta’s big orchestral works disappointed). Some pieces were ‘nice’ to a certain extent(Essa Pekka Salone’s orchestral pieces, to name only one example). Some pieces sunk a bit (Desert Music by Steve Reich). A little piece by David Lang (of ‘La grande bellezza’ and ‘La Giovinezza’ fame) ‘Miracle ear’ was sent to me by Jonathan Bonny, a former student, and it was charming. Though the whole minimalist movement attracts me less nowadays…
To be honest, and it makes me a bit sad, what orchestral piece ever surpassed the adventurousness of ‘La Mer’? It’s scary what’s happening in this piece… To my ear, each year even a bit more…
But the biggest surprise was Mozart’s late piano concertos… I live with these works for more than thirty years. I hated them when I was young (I once vowed when I was in my early twenties to never listen again to ‘tonal’ music, or even to music composed before 1900. I completely underwrote Boulez’s dictum: atonality is a necessity, music history’s inevitability. What a sad case I then was…
Iris once played concerto number 21 with orchestra. The one with the slow movement which many people imagine as the perfect backdrop for a wet, melancholy autumn Sunday afternoon… So, me too, I started with this one. Rubenstein really seduced me. On the same LP, another favorite. Number 23. With the incredible Adagio in Fis minor… Maybe it’s this piece which razed a dam, letting in a flood of incredible masterpieces from all kind of periods… ‘Tonality’ became a too vague denomination to condemn or justify music.
Back to the present. One example: concerto 25. Last movement (on this link, it starts at 22’)(we have the CD box of Perahia, already bought in the mid 80’s) It all seems so straightforward. Honey for the ear. But then please focus on what happens in the fifth and sixth bar. Check with the score. It’s done so offhandedly. These little dissonances, the way Wolfgang had to find solutions for the problems risen by the alto’s voicing: I’m sure Mozart just ‘wrote’ it… I realized this might have taken me weeks to find the ‘right’ solution… And this kind of deep listening revealed in this movement so many compositional gems, which I too took for granted, that I had to confess to myself: first of all, I’m currently not only half blind but I’m incurably tone-deaf too.
Genius is displayed in these piece on a scale which is overwhelming. The harmonic playground of these Classical guys wasn’t very extensive. So each note and chord counted count. But on the other hand Mozart makes these very long last movements, while never letting drop the tension nor the attention the smallest details, letting us suppose it’s all written in a kind of flow. But looking with my only good eye, I discovered a multitude of small and big problems which might have caused any composer headaches.
Which brings me to three articles which are more or less related to this.
All from the New York Times cultural page. About creativity. And where music houses in our skull… From now on, I’m not sure I’m still allowed to say I have this newly discovered curl in my cortex.
And then about the messy activities in the brain when one tries to be creative: