Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Not yet musically conscious

Weekday mornings, after getting my daughter to Kindergarten, are delicate hours. Between precompositional insomnia and a biological clock still set to Pacific time, I get to bed late, and the early wakeup comes after a bare minimum of quality sleep, so the ends of all my nerves attached to any musically relevant perceptual organs are still numb. The only solution is to play some music. Although a wind player by training, morning hours are not quite the right ones for idle Bläserei, so I stumble to the piano and do some sight reading.

But what to play? Some musical traditions have repertoire which is classified as being appropriate to particular hours of the day. Both Hindustani and Karnatic musics identify ragas with morning afternoon, evening, or late night. Aside from liturgical music, western classical music is basically repertoire for evening concerts, music made for formal wear and decorum, for artificial light and a particular social setting. Not for morning alone, half-conscious, in slippers at an upright piano. In the absence of a specialized repertoire, I've invented my own. I read through The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, The Art of the Fugue, Mikrokosmos and Kurtág's Játékok. I've grown attached to the little character pieces gathered among the sins of Rossini's old age, many of the mysterious small pieces by Liszt, and Satie has always been there (I find that the early "gothic" pieces only work for me in the morning). Sometimes I'll croak out an Ives song, and small pieces by Mumma ("from the Sushi box"), Jennings, Cage, Feldman, Hovhaness (I especially like Bare November Day), and some of John White's Sonatas are more recent parts of the mix.

This is private music making, for myself, and as much ritual and therapy as musical training, and although my personal repertoire is often a bit dark in character, this is all joyful music-making, something that Herr Doctor Wolf recommends to all.


Miguel Frasconi said...

Hi Daniel,
I'm a long time reader and a first time commenter. I have quoted you over at my weblog (frasconimusic.com). This is a beautuful post! It made me realize how much I miss having a piano to play. I miss the ritual and therapeudic aspects of private joyful music-making.

Keep up the great work!
By the way, have we met? Seems like we might have crossed paths at some point.
All the best,
Miguel Frasconi

Civic Center said...

I totally envy you your morning private music-making ritual. Check out some of Poulenc's short piano pieces. They may be my favorite music by him and sound like they might be fun to play.

jupiterjenkins said...

I think Pablo Casals began his morning with a prelude and fugue from WTC. I often like Bach in the morning. Lately I have been playing Distler's little pieces from his 30 pieces for small organ or other keyboard instruments.

Anonymous said...

Mid Baroque keyboard music was often not for public display at all ... quite suitable for 'timeless' private use. Buxtehude, Reincken, Boehm, Louis Couperin for suites - or any number of pieces in the Italian contrapuntal tradition - almost anything with the title 'Ricercar' on it.
That said, the farther back you go the less the piano will do for the piece. If that matters...

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