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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000586.txt from 2000/09

From: Tony@-----.uk (Tony Pay)
Subj: RE: [kl] being expressive in Italian (repost in standard format)
Date: Tue, 19 Sep 2000 23:57:03 -0400

Here's a repost of my post that was confusing to Roger and others, in
the 'standard' quoting format.

(Having wrestled with the 'editor' in the hotmail system, I can only
concur that this quoting business is a pig, unless you have a dedicated
email program.)

On Tue, 19 Sep 2000 08:29:37 -0700 (PDT), Bilwright@-----.net wrote:

> On Monday, 18 Sept 2000, Tony Pay wrote:
>
> > On Sunday 17 Sep 2000, Bill Wright wrote:
> >
> > > If you want the player to be expressive, how do you mean? Solemn?
> > > Lamenting? Joyous? Energetic? Downright hyper? Near to suicide?
> > > Experiencing nirvana?
> >
> > As an aside, I myself have the habit of reading the word
> > 'espressivo' as though it has a question mark attached. I also
> > recommend this way of reading the instruction to my students. It
> > then means, roughly: what is this bit expressive *of*? In the
> > personal register? And you find your answer by a process of
> > experimentation.
>
> This returns us to the question of music vs. language. Are the two
> sufficiently connected that a composer can (or should) say more than:
> "Think about this, it's a special passage"?

Well, he can. Sometimes he or she does.

> Does verbal language -- more than just 'allegro' or 'con brio' --
> belong in music (without lyrics)? Should I restrict my language to
> the title? Perhaps it's proper to title my song "Bill's Lament, an
> Angry March in G minor", but it's not proper to put above the key
> signature "Largo march, filled with lament and anger"?

No, people do both.

> I have not forgotten a sentence from one of your (Tony Pay's) posts:
> "I don't think in words when I'm playing."

You'd been talking about how 'harmonic' meant something special to you,
to do with the sort of sound you find ideal. I then wrote:

> SHM has a sort of 'purity' for you, and the word 'harmonic' is
> associated with good sound, whereas the way I used it could apply to
> just any old (clarinet) sound.
>
> I don't have that sort of association with the word -- but then, I
> don't think the way I represent sounds to myself is connected with
> words at all, so we're just different.

I never said: "I don't think in words when I'm playing." That would
be untrue.

> Obviously music and language share a common basis to some extent. They
> both can be received as air vibrations through the ear, and their
> interpretation begins and often uses feedback from identical parts of
> our nervous system, and the interpretation can be (is best when it
> is?) influenced by context and by what we observe of the
> speaker/player's body movements.

> But does the connection go deeper? (Think for a moment about this
> word 'deeper'? Why do I use a physical dimension to describe a
> thought?) I can imagine that some musicians would complain: "Don't
> clutter my mind with words while I'm playing!" But I've spoken often
> enough about the view proposed in Descartes' Error that I don't need
> to repeat it again -- except to say that (imo and ymmv) we think and
> act, as well as communicate and experience emotion, with our physical
> senses, not with some isolated island of our intellect.

Well, I have no argument with that.

But what I was characterising was how we interpret 'espressivo' when it
isn't connected to a specific instruction. I find it useful to think
that it means a particular sort of way of being with the music, as
though you are a 'person' expressing something.

Not all music is like that. If you play a piece of music called 'Dawn',
for example, some parts of that might be 'cloud-like', some parts might
be 'darkness-like', some parts 'sun-like'. But none of those elements
would be *persons*.

Players of such music mostly play in a 'descriptive' register, even if
the playing itself is very beautiful. Of course, one part of a piece
called 'Dawn' *might* be representative of a person's response to such a
thing as a dawn, and would therefore be in the personal register.

> Here is where my lack of music education rears its unwelcome head. I
> play as a pastime, albeit often with intense pleasure, not as a career
> musician and not as a totally dedicated student who devotes 4-6 hours
> each day to his studies. So I haven't driven to the university, paid
> my $5 parking fee, trudged across the campus, and pored over dozens of
> full scores.

I don't think you need to.

> If I had done so, I would have a better idea how other musicians
> answer this question; but I'm fairly certain that I would still have
> my own conviction that music *is* a language and 'espressivo' by
> itself is not what I want to read, nor what I would write myself -- no
> more than I would write (except as a character's dialogue): "Emily
> was very, very in love".

Well, when Brahms writes espressivo, you want to know what he meant by
that, don't you? Isn't he worthy of your attention?

In the second movement of the second sonata, only the third of the first
three clarinet phrases gets marked espressivo.

How do we make sense of that?

> So.... maybe I'm not a true musician?

I don't know why you say that.

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

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