I’m coming back from rehearsing with Dave in Inwood, riding the subway, not my usual bike. Biking to Inwood is a commitment. But as always, bicycles are on the mind. I sat down in front of a particularly tone-deaf advertisement from BAM, of all things:
Yeah, um. Let’s hope not, actually.
Dave and I are practicing a new piano four-hands piece of mine which I wrote last summer, but actually hasn’t been premiered yet; it’s called Retro Music and it’s basically an homage to/deconstruction of the 19th-century waltz style. I’ve always felt this weird affinity towards waltz music, perhaps because so many beloved composers from my childhood wrote them: Brahms, Chopin, Ravel, Mahler, Prokofiev. For such a specifically referential thing, it has a mimic’s ability to take on the whole spectrum of moods, characters, emotions, and yet still retain that thing that makes it a waltz, which—I don’t even really know what it is. Quite mysterious.
So Dave and I will be premiering Retro Music at a couple of house concerts later this month, and to the broader public soon thereafter, I hope.
One thing I like about working with close friends is that the border between work and pleasure is very thin, almost nonexistent. Dave and I often go off on tangents during rehearsal, musical and otherwise. Then afterwards we always cook dinner, which is as natural an extension of putting a piece of music together as I can think.
Today I wanted to show off a Chopin Nocturne I recently “discovered” (it feels rather disingenuous to use that word when talking about Chopin, and yet I had never heard the piece before)—the first of the Op. 62 pair. I read through it first a couple of days ago, finding the score open on my piano. I love the experience of reading through something completely unfamiliar for the very first time, like groping your way through your apartment with your eyes closed—you know the basic layout in your head, and yet each crevasse is somehow completely unexpected. This op. 62 Nocturne has an asymmetrical phrase structure that I haven’t completely parsed yet, and it still catches me when I play it—an odd feeling which will retreat over the next two or three runs, and which I’ll never get it back with that particular piece. In the meantime, though, I like to feel as though I’m experiencing it exactly as Chopin intended—that yes, the antecedent phrase should feel like an interruption, that the dynamics should feel slightly wonky and misplaced. If it’s too smooth then it becomes simply very pretty music.