Friday, April 18, 2008

The Debate--and Chamber Music

The anger subsides. I spent some time yesterday morning checking out media and blog responses to the infamous debate, and found that the vast majority agreed that it had been a disaster , not just for the candidates, but for the ABC TV network, its ill-chosen moderators and their ill-considered questions.

Much later in the day, I had the opportunity to put these things into perspective at a chamber concert by the Beaux Arts Trio in the series hosted by Ace Gallery. The main fare proved to be two late piano trios by Franz Schubert. Largely ignorant of the history of classical music, I learned that this composer died at the age of 31 in 1828, and that the two trios in question were written in the last six months of his life, with adumbrations of his approaching early death. The music, to my unskilled ear, was alternately light and somber, delirious and mournful as I listened with closed eyes and tried to focus on the track of each of the three instruments simultaneously--a demanding task that required full mental concentration.

Listening to these musical masterworks, I found myself reflecting on the basic, but still interesting phenomenon that it's impossible to conceive of quiet without loud, slow without fast, joy without sorrow, delight without suffering. And I was not surprised, as many times before, to notice how precisely the simple, practical wisdom of the Buddhist teachings sheds its light on every aspect of human experience.

In the light of Schubert's music, his short life, his intense, passionate dedication to the work by which he is still known today, the absurdities of current political events gave way to an appreciation of the deeper realities, the deeper truths that provide the too often unheard bass line of our lives, the work of the human spirit. I myself have already been given more than twice the number of years than those Schubert was allowed. All the more important, then, to be listening for that bass line in everything I do.

2 comments:

John Torcello said...

Peter,

I found your comments today interesting concerning the phenomenon of needing soft to judge loud, slow to judge fast, etc.

I, too, have been considering this lately; however, using your analogy to Buddhism, I come up with a slightly different take; which, I'm not sure how it relates to your comments...

I'm talking about the fact that, using digital audio processing (compressors, limiters, etc.), you can make authentically 'soft' passages extremely loud in amplitude; and vice-versa, can process authentically 'loud' passages extremely soft in volume.

In doing either of the two effects, the characteristics of their authentic 'softness' or 'loudness' are still inherent in them; even if their reconstituted form is exactly the opposite.

It seems there's a quality; a sort of 'energy' inherent in the authentic sound which defines it to our ears....

I have been experimenting with writing music in which I use extremely low amplitude levels; combining sounds and finding the result very interesting.

I've also been thinking about, but, haven't yet tried, shouting the recitation of a poem (at just below distortion level in its recording) and then using that in an audio mix at very low amplitude level...

Contrary to your comment, in these examples, you don't need the one in order to judge (or get perspective) on the other.

There is just 'something' inherent in each authentic version that identifies it in spite of playing with its subsequent amplitude quality.

Then, I'm finding, combining these 'surrealistic' (processed) versions results in something entirely different altogether...

I think this phenomenon that I'm describing provides a means for us to understand how we come to a decision whether a performer is properly interpreting a composer's work - sort of like the 'bass line' that you were listening to/for...

Did it fit?, was it too loud, too fast, did it blend with the ensemble? All, after the fact, that Prof. Schubert wrote this music so many years ago...and, it comes alive again in these present musician's performance...as realistic or surreal...right or wrong...good or bad....

Just some incomplete thought fragments...

John

robin andrea said...

I will have to find some Schubert music online today. I think it could be a good balance for the highly effected sounds we listen to and images we see on a daily basis.