Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Wilde thoughts about music

From The Critic as Artist by Oscar Wilde

"After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own. Music always seems to me to produce that effect. It creates for one a past of which one has been ignorant, and fills one with a sense of sorrows that have been hidden from one's tears. I can fancy a man who had led a perfectly commonplace life, hearing by chance some curious piece of music, and suddenly discovering that his soul, without his being conscious of it, had passed through terrible experiences, and known fearful joys, or wild romantic loves, or great renunciations."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Musical Uses for Index Cards

My family and I, along with thousands of people around the world, have gone index card crazy. For all the people who have followed the trail of index cards to this page, I can offer the way I use index cards for musical purposes.

I review CDs. Every other month I get a large stack to review for the American Record Guide. While I am listening for the first time, I jot down my thoughts about the recording on an index card. Then I slide the card into the CD case (it fits very well), and listen to the next CD in my stack. After I have listened to all the CDs, I refer to the notes on the index cards when I write my reviews.

Another way I use index cards is for teaching. Many of my students (and I assume all young students) need to be reminded of basic technical elements of playing all the time. When a student is working on a piece or an etude I use a paper clip to attach a brightly-colored (young students like bright colors) index card to the opposite page with guidelines written on it. When the student needs to be reminded of something technical I simply point at the item on the index card, making it unnecessary to make the student stop playing to make the technical adjustment. When the student has overcome the particular technical difficulties listed on the card, s/he can keep the index card for future reference. One student likes this method because she says the index card acts as a bookmark. I like this method because it leaves the printed music open for written directions that have more to do with music than technique.

Related Post: More Musical Uses for Index Cards

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Monday, April 11, 2005

From "Something to Say..." by Leonard Bernstein

In The Infinite Variety of Music, written in 1966, Leonard Bernstein discusses his method of writing music involving a kind of "trance state."

"All art recognizes the art the perceded it, or recognizes the presence of the art preceding it. So that it is not unlikely that your concept, the idea that will come to you in this trance, has something to do with music that has preceded it. And, in fact, even those composers who call themselves 'experimental' composers (and who are dedicated to the idea of writing music that is different from all other music that preceded it, making their music valuable only because it is different from earlier music) are admitting their recognition of the presence of art that preceded their own, because their art is still being written in terms of the art that preceded it--only this time in antithesis instead of imitation. Is that too confused? Yes. To put it another way, even experiemental composers, revolutionary composers, self-styled radicals, are, in writing revolutionary music, recognizing the music that preceded them precisely by trying to avoid it. Therefore, in a sense they are composing in terms of the music that preceded them."

"But more important than this, the concept is conditioned by this crazy, compulsive urge to say something. We always hear a distinction made between good and bad creators on the ground that the good creator had something to say--'Something To Say' is the big, magic phrase--and the bad artist didn't have 'Something To Say.'"

Leonard Bernstein

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Another Romantic Age of Music

It seems to be the law of art that when men are troubled in their souls they turn to such aesthetic diversions as will allow them to forget everything but their bodies. When their troubles are material and physical, they search for an art that will help them to escape from the body. We have passed through the first sort of trouble, and are into the second, which means that the days of Weber and Schumann and Wagner are about to dawn again. Another romantic age of music is not far off.

Deems Taylor Of Men and Music 1945