So many oboists, myself included, strive for perfection in our art. Why not!?! We care so deeply about our every aspect of reed making, playing, and understanding of the music itself. It is easy to “get out the magnifying glass and study the bark on the trees in the forest” We’ve heard the expression, don’t loose the the forest for the trees …. well, in being a perfectionist, it’s also easy to loose the trees for the minutia in the trees themselves! That’s OK and great to get absorbed in the nitty gritty, so long as it serves the overall expression - SONG if you will, of the forest itself.
What do I mean by this? Well, back to the philosophy I embrace, that there is only one subject, LOVE, let’s say that music is the voice of LOVE, in all it’s profoundly complicated and delicious spices and flavors, however shallow or deep, dark or sparkling the water in the ocean of love in the musical voice. In other words, yes, every wave is comprised of drops and micro organisms, but don’t loose the wave for that, or the ocean itself in the fascination of perfecting the details within the music of the ocean.
As a composer, all the details matter in the portrait of the flavor of love I am writing.
When I compose a sonic portrait of a tiny, small work of a solo oboe flower, for example, I take it very seriously. Every note, placement of the note and where it relates in the relationship of beat in the measure, has importance and meaning to me and the more these detailed brush strokes are observed, the more clarity in elegant nuance to the beauty of the portrait of the flower can be heard and expressed, AND also, HOWEVER it’s all a mute point if there is sight lost to the flower itself! (I will blog more about the flowers again in this new generation of blogs - for instance a ROSE to me symbolizes patience and cultivation of elegance)
Consider phrasing, all notes belong in a phrase (assuming there is a phrase) All notes in a phrase are a part of the phrase itself and are like how all letters are parts of words and those words are members of a sentence. (or line of poetry… I know, there is no end)
I find it helpful to think of written music like a language. Notes in a measure are like a word, measures in a phrase are like a words in a sentence, sentences in a movement are like a chapter in a great story. YES, it is both important to pronounce the letters of words correctly, to articulate the consonances, and be mindful of rests and timing…..so the words can be heard and understood, but it is all in service to the story.
What is the GIST of this story and how does this word enhance and contribute to the meaning of THIS gist - how does this ingredient make this meal delicious? Every ingredient has a flavor, and every flavor relates to other flavors, in terms of how it colors or enhances, blends with…dosage is important. It helps to know the difference between the main ingredients, spices, and textures.
Lois Wann would often have me remove all excess notes and have me just play the skeleton of the phrase. What are the stable notes (nouns) of resolution and what are the action - stressful notes - (verbs) of motion in the scale. For example there is a big difference between tonic and leading tone in purpose of a phrase or arpeggio or in a measure. How the downbeat is played or felt is a far cry from the upbeat of the last beat - and so on….. A grace note using the 2nd note of the scale is not the skeleton and is different than a dominant note of a scale on the 3rd beat in a 4.4 bar … Here is the skeleton body of the phrase, then we would gradually add the passing tones and filler notes, ornaments etc. This requires some idea of theory. It helps to know what you’re doing and what is what. Is this note a part of the skeleton of the phrase ( a main ingredient) like chicken in a chicken dish or is this curry in curry chicken (I’d think of that as the 3rd degree of the scale - consider how a third degree of the scale influences the emotional flavor)
Of course as a composer, I want to hear my work performed correctly with understanding the details and the story and how the details serve the story. Hmmm, I will have to write more blogs about this. Everything in written music - if written consciously - has a function. What color is this in the landscape? Is this a shadow, ray of light?
Imagine a painted portrait of someone. I think the objects, colors, facets of the face and details of what is ever around the person all somehow give meaning and support the purpose or gist of the portrait. What do the objects in a portrait say about the person? What is the person and what are the supporting objects in the environment? What says or expresses what?
With some creative thinking - we can liberate our learning and recreation via metaphor and analogy in service to our art, What was the composer thinking? Why this note, or rhythm, or place in the measure…..???? Why not?
I maintain that the more a person understands theory - which is like grammar and vocabulary using the language analogy - or ingredients using the cooking analogy, or color and shadow, objects and subjects using the painting portrait analogy, and can pronounce and understand the words and nuances of inflection, timing and so forth to articulate i.e. TELL the story, relate the point, the flavor, the portrait of love behind the story itself best, providing the understand of minutia doesn’t eclipse the overall expression.
In future blogs in the heading MUSE ECHO - I will go into this thinking.
For playing works of other composers, like Handel or Telemann for instance, I’ve found this thinking - and the great teachings of Lois, extremely helpful. Know your bones, muscles, embellishments and so forth in service to the overall work itself.
YUM have fun.
In service to the music!
August 8th, 2019