Monday, 22 December 2008

No more piano!

That's it. I've left the mansion now. So I've got to find a way of keeping up the blog without it. Hmmm. A creative challenge!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Eerie christmas

This eerie christmas improvisation doesn't really work, which I find interesting. It's quite disturbing, partly because (I think) there is no recognisable human voice here.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008


This is not a vitriolic post, but something's happened this evening which has made my insides turn into knots. This is not a feeling I've had for some time. What's the mechanism for this emotion? It involves two clashing world-views, each one insisting that the other is different to ensure their own viability, each one perceiving threat in the changes that are being demanded of it. As with any double-bind, there is no way out. Change isn't possible, not-change will only heighten conflict. And so we have instant pathology, with a direct biological response to boot. Strangely, I feel better for having written this.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Sympathy and resonance

Thinking about sympathy and resonance in voices (following on from yesterday). This improvisation has one clear voice (a repeated melody .. a single pattern.. which is varied) and some sort of accompaniment which serves to bring out details, aspects of it. The classic 'litany' idea of continual reharmonisation from French music is a particular example of this (thinking of Alexander Goehr..).

Monday, 15 December 2008

Eastern voice

Heard some amazing Turkish classical music this evening.. the modes used (phrygian, etc) create a very sensuous effect, and clearly there is a lot of melismatic voice over a drone bass. Definitely melody and accompaniment. Two voices? no, I think the drone simply 'amplifies' the voice.. it resonates sympathetically.. (interestingly we were talking about sympathetic magic and the Lescaux caves this afternoon...). The distinction between sympathy and conflict needs more thinking about!

The joker's voice

Here's some Haydn (which I used to be able to play better than I can now!). Haydn is a juxtaposer - that's where Beethoven got it from. But the frequent and unexpected changes in texture and mood are there to create a sense of fun.. humour in places (if it's done well). What's the voice? Like Bach, there are places where there are many voices. But I think really it's the voice of the skilled comedian, playing with our expectations. This is the voice that knows how voices work, and how we expect voices to work, and knows how to surprise us... it is a 'knowing' voice (Shakespeare is like this too)

Saturday, 13 December 2008

For Astrid

I'm still exploring voices, which gave me the idea of doing some Schubert - which is all about melody and the profound evocation of a 'voice'. There is little music in the world as beautiful as this. And the words are a deep expression of love. So this is for Astrid.

Bach Prelude

How many 'voices' are here? In a sense we might say "one" - the musical consistency of the whole. But at the same time there is 'melody' and 'accompaniment'.. there are motivic patterns which cross between them. We hear this crossing. We interpret this crossing as 'crossing between different voices'... as an 'ensemble'. What is it in the music that makes us recognise this as 'ensemble'?

Friday, 12 December 2008

How many voices?

Here is a Debussy prelude.. There seems to be a melody and accompaniment - the 'voice' (top) is initially quite clear.. but then the texture thickens, the harmony takes it to unusual places.. and in places that clear 'single' voice is subsumed into something bigger.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Flowing voices

Also heard the Vaughan Williams Mass today. Made me think about the opposite of juxtaposition which is the seemless flow of music of Palestrina, etc (and to some extent Bach) - and Vaughan Williams. It strikes me that this music has everything to do with 'voice'. We hear the voices of the parts, whose movements appear to us individually coherent (how - is there a vicarious element to this??). When the voice is broken (with new textures, harmonies.. or juxtapositions), there is a different level of engagement (what is this?) - the vicarious experience of motifs and ideas?


Heard some Prokofiev this morning (and evening) on my way to Birmingham (JISC thing). I learnt the 7th sonata as a student (always ambitious!), I've always loved the mellifluous melodies and unexpected changes to harmony and mood. There's some mileage here - it's sort of related to the juxtaposition thing... (what is the effect of this?)

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Juxtaposer composer

Much of the music I really love is by juxtaposers: Stravinsky, Beethoven, Berlioz, Janacek, Tippett, Ives, Monteverdi, Messaien. What is it about juxtaposition which gives their music such fluidity and vitality?

Monday, 8 December 2008

Christmas dance

What is it about open 5ths that summon up a Christmas-like feeling? Is it because many carols, etc. use them as a throw-back to peasant dances? I'm not sure. I wonder if it's got something to do with 'grounding' - after all, the open 5th is so harmonically determinate. Superimposing them (like here) makes for a sense where grounding could come anywhere harmonically...

late-night theoretical musing

Just back from London and thinking about the link between Luhmann's communication theory, Harre's positioning theory and the ancient greek idea of Kenosis (as I've learnt it from Karen Armstrong). It's too late to think about, but useful to register the thought!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Astrid's Twitter Poem

This is a development. I got Astrid to read her Twitter poem and record it. I then improvised and fitted her reading around the improvisation. A bit of (hasty) messing around with Windows movie maker. Plenty of room for improvement, but I like the effect...

Something a bit smoother

Did this improvisation a few days ago.. it was an attempt to simply relax at the piano. Nothing testing. Perhaps it's a bit anodyne...