Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

[Jonathan Mayhew and others are blogging through Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites. I’m giving it a whirl.]

after a series of arpeggiated chords the melody begins its cascade, all those 8th notes, and then chords again oh description how bland you are, Bach is thinking through the cellist’s hands, the tender attention and quicksilver consciousness, and you feel it building to that glorious return of the opening major chord an octave higher and at that joyancing at reaching the peak of the octave suddenly the piece is done and it’s on to number 2

ruminations, the dude ruminates beautifully, a light-footed ruminant, dancing like a deer through the verge

now the dance is partying, we bow and curtsey, how do you do and how do ye do and how do ye do again? ye olde dance rhythms carry their costumes from 300 years since

late night reflections, the passions quieten and no less passionately, melody melody

the quick step through town is all music visual? no but rhythms imply a body and are made by a body reading a score written by a body,

the lines can get echoey, turning over the same phrase from slightly altered harmonic perspectives

IF this one had a programmatic verbal framing I’d be digging its discursiveness more

more dancing! a quick turn to minor doesn’t last long, we got ourselves a quick minuet and that means tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1699 -- get the happy feet and we end with a satisfied happy heavy sigh

Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, 1. Prelude, 2. Allemande, 3. Courante, 4. Sarabande, 5. Menuets I and II, 6. Gigue.

[This is a transcript of the (not at all satisfactory) writing off the top of my head I did while listening to the roughly 17 minutes of Pablo Casals’ recording of the six movements of the first suite while the kid was bugging me, asking me to turn on the bathroom light for him, asking me what I was writing, and so on. I got the last movement wrong -- it’s not a Minuet, it’s a Gigue. But it’s in triple meter; hence my confusion. Bach was 14 years old in 1699.

The Sunday NY Times article comparing the attention required to listen to pop music versus that required for classical was on the table, headed by a cartoon of a straightlaced dude and a rocker dude, both listening to head phones with eyes shut, the rocker dude with arms crossed and pinkie and index fingers outstretched in a rocker hand pose that probably has a more specific signification of which I am ignorant. The kid asked what those guys were doing. I said one was listening to classical, such as we had just listened to, and the other was listening to rock, and would you like to listen to some rock? Yes, he would; so I put on Big Brother and the Holding Company’s first album, a favorite since I was in high school about 10 years after its 1968 release. I had not listened in at least a year, and the album -- especially first three songs -- blew me away again. The sharpness of the ensemble rhythms, dance rhythms from my lifetime; the unassimilable excess of Janis Joplin’s singing and James Gurley’s electric guitar solos; the boldness of the arrangements alternating Gurley’s wild guitar with Sam Andrew’s tighter, funkier guitar leads; the gorgeous reconceptualization of the great Gershwin lullaby “Summertime,” putting it into triple meter and even boasting a classical-esque flurry of gentle arpeggios after a noisy guitar episode. Not only are the songs musically happening -- they’re longer than the Bach movements too. Nothing dates a piece of music more quickly than a dance rhythm.

Later we went to a New Year’s Day party at the home of our friend Robert, who plays bass and mandolin and sings in my band as well as other bands. Like all of his parties this was chock full of music, in full swing when we got there. An impromptu string band played traditional folk and bluegrass and swing tunes in the living room, mostly led by an 80-ish-year-old man who sang and played fiddle. When Robert abandoned his bass for hosting duties I jumped at the chance to play it and didn’t butcher it too badly, I don’t think; enjoyed myself immensely; until a better bass player came back into the room and I relinquished my spot and listened happily. Hearing it live, played spontaneously and joyfully, no dance rhythm goes out of date. I felt the same way when I heard live performances of some of the Bach cello suites last March: Nothing dated about them at all when you’re in the room with the player. This is not always true on recordings.]

-- Illustration by Koren Shadmi, New York Times (I haven’t finished the article).


Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?