My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Musical Investigations - episode 1: Desenclos

I have a passion for finding patterns in music.  I don't think I've always been this way but it's become more and more a part of my music-making ever since I returned to performing after having our daughter.  It arose out of sheer necessity since I no longer had hours and hours to practice every day but now I see it as a bit of a game - a game that is actually very productive which makes it all the more fun.  

And since it would be rude to be having all this fun all by myself, I thought I'd take time every now and then to share snippets of the music I'm learning right now on my blog and to show how I make sense of them in order to turn the music from a mass of black notes into an intricately woven web of patterns, chords, and motives.  Please note that I'm not a theory buff in any way so I rarely, if ever, will actually label anything with Roman numerals.  Roman numerals, in fact, give me hives.  I look at music in a very simplistic way, that's just the way it is.

To kick off my musical investigations, here is a clip from A. Desenclos' "Prelude, Cadence, et Finale," a piece written for alto saxophone and piano.  

I have been avoiding this one line now for at least a week.  In fact today, right after I had finally turned to the page where it lurks, I was delighted to have been interrupted by someone wanting a rehearsal.  (Let's see...Poulenc flute sonata or horrendous Desenclos? Hmmm...)  I knew at that moment, with that incredible surge of relief at being interrupted, that as soon as my rehearsal was done it was time.  Flutist rehearsed with and departed, I opened up the music, took a deep breathe and began trying to make some sense of it all.  Here's what I found:

  • The notes circled in red show descending movement by this interval throughout the passage both in the right hand and in the left hand.  
  • Every single triad or triad, broken or played as a chord, is minor.
  • In the right hand, after the initial upward flourish, there is a pattern that repeats every 8 sixteenth notes in terms of the contour of the motives.  The first group of 4 sixteenths goes down, the second group goes up after the initial note of the group.  
  • The right hand, after four minor-third descents repeats the exact same pattern.
What I realized after discovering all these details was that I could keep my hands in the exact same position and just move down by minor thirds.  Piece of cake!  

It's funny.  After doing these types of investigations I often find myself laughing at myself and saying, "What was I so worried about?"  

That's a good question.  

Next?  [As she puts the Desenclos aside.]

Added later:
Here is a video of my performance of this piece with saxophonist Brandon Mock, a student at Radford University.  If you can find the musical excerpt above in the recording, you get a prize - kind of like looking for a needle in a haystack! 

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