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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000817.txt from 1999/09

From: (Tony Pay)
Subj: [kl] Non-swinging crocodiles
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 09:07:44 -0400

On Thu, 23 Sep 1999 21:51:59 -0400, said:

> Tony had some great comments on Copland, on the "to swing or not".
> The swing I wrote about is a very light nuance, not the 66 2/3 33 1/3
> swing in traditional "swing". This swing is more like 52 - 48%.
> Compared to say Mozart - it's swing. Compared to standard swing jazz
> it is not. Listen to Shifrin's recording - that is how, and what I
> wrote of, and is the same as Michele Z. , and Roger S. spoke about -
> and it was not in a lesson situation, it was friends discussing
> interpretation for the 1993 Belguim ICA competition - I was coaching
> one of the Finalists, and they were the ones who brought up that area.

Having thought about this a bit more, I'm now prepared to argue that
swing is not the best way of thinking of the beginning of passage Q
even within the jazz context. So quite apart from what I said before,
there are other reasons why Goodman wouldn't necessarily have wanted to
swing passage Q.

Consider for a moment: what is the point of swing? Why does it arise?

Swing is a background patterning (a stylistic element, in the language
I used previously). Like the hierarchical structure of the bar, it
exists to establish a sufficiently rich environment for the perception
of subtle changes.

(Leonard Bernstein gave the shortest example of the establishment and
subsequent disruption of patterning when he talked about the "...ready,.
..steady,...Go!" principle in music.)

Anyhow, what swing does is to call attention to, and emphasise by
prolonging slightly, the first of each pair of notes in a sequence of
such pairs, and suppress the second of each pair by a corresponding
shortening. Subtle modulation of the emphasis, and even contradiction
of the emphasis, is then possible. The baroque 'inegal' technique does
the same sort of thing.

The beginning of passage Q, however, doesn't contain a sequence of note
pairs. It contains three notes, of which group we want to emphasise the
beginning, as a counterpoise to the offbeat bass.

I would say, contra the playing of many of my colleagues, but in
conformity with several powerful traditions of which the Viennese is not
the least, that when we have groups of three (or more) notes, and have
to emphasise the beginnings of those groups, we do best to make the
first note *shorter*, and pile in the second note earlier than usual.

Consider how the Viennese waltz works. The first and second beats are
closer together, using the energy generated by faster change. If you do
it the other way around, this 'faster change' energy has to occur
between the second and third beats -- and this has the effect of working
against the beginning emphasised patterning you want to achieve.

This realisation can considerably help the performance of, for example,
the third movement of the Brahms Clarinet trio. As an experiment, try
the result of playing ever so slightly faster, rather than slower, at
the beginning of the bars; or at the beginnings of the phrases, when
these are longer than a bar. (This also gives 'relaxation space'
towards the end of the bar or phrase.)

Language example:

Crocodiles mostly fornicate slowly.

If you say the preceding sentence, not too fast, imagining that the
beginnings of the words show a regular steady pulse, I think you will
detect that it's natural to speed up the beginnings of the
three-syllable words and slow down the beginnings of the two-syllable

Then passage Q becomes, say:

Crocodile A
And crocodile B
Were chattering
Under a tree.


And by playing with the colours of the syllables in the faster 'Croco-'
bit, you can achieve the relaxed feel in a way that is much more natural
-- to me, at any rate.

I don't deny that you *could* do it the other way -- try saying it to
yourself both ways -- but I think that to do so naturally requires a
quite high degree of swing, rather than the gentle one David is talking

(I can't quite find the joke about there 'not being enough room to swing
a crocodile'. It's in there somewhere.)

Anyone want to try completing and/or modifying the poem?-)

_________ Tony Pay
|ony:-) 79 Southmoor Rd
| |ay Oxford OX2 6RE GMN family artist:
tel/fax 01865 553339

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