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I am looking for a musical expert. (Read 1668 times)

Offline thejeev

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I am looking for a musical expert.
« on: February 05, 2016, 04:50:12 AM »
If there are any among you here, or know of anyone, that considers themselves to be an expert of sorts with Romantic music "Beethoven, Rach, Liszt etc." and is willing to entertain and earnestly consider (before writing me off as insane) a rather absurd claim that I want to make, I am desperate to put my mind at rest.

There is a little bit of background I want to give but I will try to be as terse as I can, I don't mean to post a wall about what you will likely consider to be nonsense, but I would truly appreciate any consideration and appreciate any time anyone takes in reading this.

To start, I'm 29, have played the piano as a hobby since I was about 9, never took lessons, but consider myself a capable player (though I never practised reading music). From a young age I took a liking to all of the expressive music, particularly of those composers mentioned above.

Now, I have lived alone for the past few years, and when I wasn't working I was at my piano. About a month ago something dramatic happened to me one night, I will try to explain it as best as I can:

I was playing Liszt Contert Etude No. 3, and was experimenting with doing different things with the main voice. I would compare my playing to recordings on Youtube to see which I liked better, my own or others'.

This will be incredibly hard to describe, but all of a sudden, as I was recording and playing back samples (digital piano), something inside of me, my brain, the way I hear music, completely changed. It's as though, all of a sudden, music started getting processed in a completely different part of my brain, because I wasn't just hearing music anymore, I was hearing real thoughts, words, stories, as though the piano suddenly had a voice that wasn't there before (perhaps I just wasn't listening properly). I figured maybe I am just catching up to what most people actually hear when they hear music, and I was a late bloomer.

I was content with this, but a few weeks ago I sat down with Rach's Prelude in g-minor, the one he wrote when he was 16 years old. I played passages, but suddenly I broke down because everything just hit me at once. Here's the crazy bit, I understood what was being said. Not musically, but real thoughts, the feelings, why it was written the way it was, why it's marked alla marcia, what each note and phrase means.

Now most people here will say "that's ridiculous and you're crazy". At this point this would be the right response, but this leads me to the reason for my post.

One would tell me that I can never prove an "interpretation" to be true, and most people would agree with this. Now I've been thinking about how to demostrate how I am determining what is being said, and that's partly why I'm posting.

If you sat down to read a piece, and let's suppose (completely hypothetical, this certainly does not happen to me) that the composer appears before you, tells you what the piece is about, what each section means etc. and you believe him/her. You have gained a factual knowledge of this piece, and want to share what it is, but sort of know nobody would believe you, how would you deal with this? Who would you reach out to?

To give an example of what I'm talking about, Rach's g-minor Prelude, I used to hear just notes, but now I hear his parents scolding Sergei about there being "work to do", then Segei takes the line "I never get anything that I ask for" in the middle section, and takes the "work to do" motiff from the start and creates an immensely beautiful lyrical exchange, the "work to do" always follows his thoughts, and it keeps building etc. but the genius nuance and intricate details that go into it to bring out these ideas is what made me realize what romantic music really was.

If you're asking where I'm getting this from, it's giving a lot of thought to why things were marked as they were. These composers were geniuses, their level of genius is probably incomprehensible to most of us, so when you take the mindset that each and every marking is there for a specific reason, then things can be narrowed down until you come out with a pretty clear message.

The only thing I can think to do, is take a copy of the notation, and actually write down the words that (I want to make the case for) inspired the notation, because simply explaining it here would not suffice. I can supplement this with my own playing to try to bring out the voice and play it in a manner as if someone were actually speaking it.

I am making effort to sound modest, but I do feel very strongly about this, and it makes Rachmaninoff's own words so moving to me "if anyone wants to know me, they just need to listen to my music", I started listening, and I think I know what he's saying. I've only talked about g-minor prelude, but there are other pieces from Liszt and Beethoven.

Ultimately I'm looking for someone with the patience that is willing to hear me out as I make a case, note for note, accent for accent, what these pieces are saying. I'm also willing to do the following:

-Take any line, poem, phrase (with accompanying context) and put it to music, the same way I believe these composers did. It can be your own. However, only ideas that are concise and possess a lot of tone and character (anything will work but I'm finding that the ideas which are most concise and have the biggest spectrum of mood and character are able to manifest in music better).
-Record passages and play them linguistically (at speeds which mimick how they would sound when spoken) as opposed to musically (would never perform this way but to try to highlight what I'm talking about)
-I live in the GTA area and if someone is in the area I can make the case in person, preferably if there's a tuned piano nearby

I know this sounds stupid but please go easy on me, thanks for your time.

Offline awesom_o

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Re: I am looking for a musical expert.
«Reply #1 on: February 05, 2016, 06:29:04 AM »
I'm not sure if I understand your request, but I live in the GTA, in a house with three musical experts in total, and two Steinways, which are currently out of tune.

I would be very interested if you could find the words for some of the music I have written.

Offline piulento

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Re: I am looking for a musical expert.
«Reply #2 on: February 05, 2016, 06:53:47 AM »
That's really interesting. I guess different players have different levels of processing music
To me, playing a piece means interpreting it intuitively, based on how I feel and understand it at the moment. But my interpretation could be completely different a month later, because I gained some different perspective on the piece, because I just happened to feel differently at the time.
What you're saying is that you process the piece literally - it has a certain and exact "text", which is exactly what the composer was thinking when composing the piece - and it's not something for you to decide, or that can change over time.
I personally don't see it that way - I think that pieces of music, like literature, should be abstractly interpreted by the artist's current emotions. That's why we have such a huge range of interpretations to pieces - everyone sees them differently. I agree that the composer did have something in mind when composing the piece, and that you should stay pretty faithful to it. But it's not exact text - it's like a huge pallet of colors - it's pretty abstract. For me the piece (as it was written by the composer) is a "frame", but the actual music is a combination of both the piece itself and your understanding of it. That's why you can tell right away if a player is playing honestly, or if he's just faking it, because he doesn't know exactly how a piece makes him feel.
But TBH, I never experienced your way of seeing music, so I might be missing out on a whole new world of processing music. You might just see something that I'm completely blind to - and that interests me. Therefore I'd like you to explain yourself more; Do just what you said - upload recordings, compose music based on text, write text based on music, etc. I'm really interested in how it turns out. Who knows, if you can really understand the music as you say, you just might be able to not only interprert, but also compose incredible pieces - based on how you feel.
Best regards!

Offline irrational

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Re: I am looking for a musical expert.
«Reply #3 on: February 05, 2016, 08:03:21 AM »
Its certainly interesting.

I have had moments where the music just takes over and my mind conjures up scenes like a dream. My teacher said that is when you really FEEL the music and don't just play notes. I have encountered this sometimes when playing, sometimes when listening!
Romantic music is all about this evocation of emotion and involving you in it.

I can't say if that was what the composer intended necessarily (although sometimes they definitely did).

I don't often feel that way, but when I do I can listen to something over and over and savour every nuance in the music.
Nah not crazy in the least. Perhaps after all the years of listening you have developed your ear to hear more. Enjoy it, its wonderful!

Online lostinidlewonder

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Re: I am looking for a musical expert.
«Reply #4 on: February 05, 2016, 09:51:57 AM »
I don't think it is necessary to view music exactly in terms of what the composer was thinking, can we really know that intimate knowledge truthfully? Better is to perhaps use the emotion the music inspires and connect it directly to your own life experience.
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Offline thalbergmad

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Re: I am looking for a musical expert.
«Reply #5 on: February 05, 2016, 10:45:19 AM »
Better is to perhaps use the emotion the music inspires and connect it directly to your own life experience.

Well said that man.

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Offline dcstudio

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Re: I am looking for a musical expert.
«Reply #6 on: February 05, 2016, 02:52:14 PM »

the part about music being processed in a different part of your brain... now that is something that does happen.  You have never taken lessons, or practiced reading music, and you have no theory training to speak of--and music has just jumped into a part of your brain that is capable of higher thought.   There is no vocabulary in place to describe what you are hearing within your own ears so your brain is trying to "make sense" of it.  I am not saying that your brain doesn't understand what your hands are doing... it does... it just has no words to communicate with so it is using emotion.  Your experience is not unheard of by any means.  I am in no way trying to down this because I know first hand what a rush it is.  Even with years of formal training those moments of spontaneous understanding can be very exciting.

You are making an assumption though... that Rach composed every note as some kind of spoken phrase... that there is a meaning connected to his personal life in each melody... that is a very romantic notion of composition.    Once you learn the language of music and study composition and the processes of composition... you may find that things are not quite the way you imagined.   In no way do I mean to detract from the absolute genius of his compositions....  all I am saying is that there is no way to know what he was thinking---this is what this music means to you---we don't know what it meant to Rach.

but you should still enjoy this time :)


Offline thejeev

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Re: I am looking for a musical expert.
«Reply #7 on: February 05, 2016, 05:46:32 PM »
To all that have replied, thank you for hearing me out, I appreciate the honest remarks.

awesom_o: This is very kind of you, and I'd most certainly be willing to accept your challenge of trying to interpret your music, however I would need the notation, as well as an audio recording which you deem accurately represents the music. I'm a few hours away from Toronto and would certainly come by, that is once those very nice pianos of yours get a bit of a tune (I think this is important for clarity).

piulento: Thank you for your response, I think you are absolutely correct. I mentioned in my first post that I wouldn't ever perform a piece based solely on what I thought the composer was thinking in terms of a real linguistic narrative. I do believe that the performer should infuse their own performance with their own experience, and ultimately the goal should be, this is what the composer said, this is what it means to me. However, what I'm talking about is cutting off the middle man, and going directly back to the composer, using his notation, dynamics etc. and forming a real narrative that he/she likel had when composing. This only seems to work for romantic music that is not bound to form and/or structure. Your words were encouraging and I was pleased to read them, thank you!

irrational: Thank you, this accurately describes what I've experienced, but for me it's taken yet a step further and I somehow am led to believe that these romantic composers don't just convey emotions in music, they extract the emotions from real terms, phrases, and experiences.

For example if you take the phrase "I've got a big surprise for you!", and think about how you might convey that through music, then listen to Liszt's Un Sospiro, suddenly the piece (to me) becomes a real story that may or may not have originated from Liszt, but it's about someone going to meet someone else and they have a gift, but the other person is not there, hence the crazy cadenza tantrums. Liszt was all about stories with wide ranges of emotions put to music. Rach's stories weren't fiction, they were his real experiences, which is why I prefer his music. Of course this is my opinion, thanks for your response!

lostinidlewonder: I think you're right, again I would never perform a piece in a manner of supposing what the composer intended, but rather we should relate it to our own experience, but what I'm saying is I think it IS "possible" to discern what the composer is talking about, intimate knowledge as you put it. However, this only works for composers with immense clarity in their writing such as Liszt/Rach/LVB, it wouldn't work for composers whose ideas are more abstract, thought I'm not familiar with him, I'm thinking about Scriabin and his...sometimes bonkers style, who could interpret that? I'm simply making the case that a few select composers are so precise in their writing that there begins to emerge real thoughts, and I want to prove this in the coming days, perhaps not to a certainty but at least make a case for it.

dcstudio: Your first paragraph I agree with completely. In your second paragraph there are a few things I want to clarify. I don't claim that all of Rach's music is always based on a spoken phrase. I don't know if that's the case and never will, but what I'm saying is, his g-minor prelude in particular, is in fact written based on a real set of ideas that likely served as the basis for the composition. Again I understand this is a big claim but I have yet to make the case for it, and I want to do it properly.

Someone in my family asked to me put music to the famous poem "How do I love thee?". I have started this, but unfortunately it requires a full orchestra. A piano alone could not come close to producing all of the different colours and "scope", and I'm not Rach and can't produce full orchestra sounds on a piano like he could. I may put this on hold and pick up something more suitable for a piano. For now, I want to find something suitable for the piano, and actually describe my thought process when composing the music, and sort of mimick the romantic composers' thought process.

If anyone has a powerful or moving poem, short story, even provocative picture/painting, I would love to try and have a go at it!

In the meantime I'm going to work on making the case for the prelude. Thanks to everyone who replied again, I was afraid to check the responses for fear of being called crazy, this means a lot to me.

Offline dcstudio

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Re: I am looking for a musical expert.
«Reply #8 on: February 05, 2016, 06:28:46 PM »
pardon me... you are assuming that the Gminor prelude has some connection to his personal life which is spoken through the themes.  That Rach had a secret language only you can understand.   There are laws that govern music.  Without knowledge of theory, without the universal terminology used by all musicians, and no understanding of the forms--such as Preludes, Waltzes, Ballades, and the many others used by composers of that era--how will you explain your point and have it be understood by other pianists or listeners?  How will you make a case for Rach's personal reasons for choosing these themes when you do not speak the formal language of music as he did?   How can you hope to understand his motives when you do not understand the basic laws of music that were second nature to him and all of the other master composers as well?  How can you claim to understand Rach's musical language when you do not fully understand the physical properties of acoustics?  Without this frame of reference how can you be so sure your interpretations are the same as his?  You are not the first to make these kinds of claims here at PS.

I don't doubt your experience in the slightest...  and I don't mean to sound rude at all.   Think about it for a minute please.   :) what I am very gently trying to state is that you do not have all the facts.  Your picture is incomplete and your brain is filling in the blanks.

to make your case for this... I would suggest arming yourself with a lot of studying.  Not only music theory and music history but musical acoustics as well.   You are going to have to defend this to people who do understand and speak music fluently...


Offline thejeev

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Re: I am looking for a musical expert.
«Reply #9 on: February 08, 2016, 01:27:46 AM »
dcstudio:

I'm am assuming that the Gminor prelude has a connection to his personal life, because even he himself admitted to being overcome with intense emotion while writing it. People don't get that emotional over coming up with a clever musical idea, they get emotional because they pour their soul into it. Whenever they play it, and hear others perform it, they are immediately confronted with the same emotions that went into writing it. Now my claim involves knowing exactly what these emotions are, and the ideas behind them.

You asked me to think for a minute. I want to ask the same of you.

Rach is 16. His dad is a deadbeat who can't handle money or himself, and left his wife and kids to pick up the slack. Rach is already completely consumed with music, he had a natural gift for it, but he's constantly held back because, as I said:

WORK. TO. DO.

The base in the prelude is "Work, There's work to do. THEREISWORK to do. Main voice comes in "Work to do!x4" etc. this goes on. The fast higher chords "Work, always work to do", the slow section "I never get anything that I ask for" base quickly replies "work to do" et.

I could go on but I'm going to do this more comprehensively in the next coming days to prove my point for good. I'll show the music, mark important notation, play the damn thing and actually voice it to make it sound like the real words. Just go listen to Rach himself play it in the meantime, nobody understands why his version is so different, if fact most people prefer other renditions, but when you apply the above, suddenly his rendition makes total sense and his odd style suddenly falls into place.

You come across as though I don't know anything about music. You're right I never studied it. The whole point of my post was that I'm not studied in music, yet (seem to) have this ability. I speak musical language just fine, in fact, Rach taught me that musical language is just, language, your thoughts put to rhythm and voice via an instrument. We all know language. If you understand this, and have an intuitive understanding of music, view music in this light of language, suddenly everything makes sense. His "language" as you put it, is the same language we all use.

The acoustics bit, I understand very well. Actually, when I play, I don't play by sound at all, I play by the vibration of the piano (in my case a keyboard). When I play, I feel the vibrations inside my body, and when a voice comes in, it has to fall correctly into how the piano is vibrating at the time. In fact, when I play, I imagine spiral-like waves coming out of the piano, and I play a mental game of changing the shape of these things so it mimicks a real voice. Again this is all intuitive, I never learned anything anywhere, I can only say that it comes naturally to me, as does the rest of music.

I don't have all the facts, and I don't claim to have. I don't claim to be able to make out every piece, but my range of repertoire is extremely limited because I never played seriously. All I'm claiming is, some composers' inspiration for dramatic ROMANTIC works is strictly from a spoken word, the character and tone it carries, modulating simple messages different ways. Liszt did it with simple little poems and stories that usually had a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Rach took it a step further and talked about his own life, drew from the real world as opposed to stories, talked about what mattered to him, and again, told us to know him, listen to his music. This is really important, he's basically telling us his music is about HIM and HIS EXPERIENCES. How can't this be obvious?

Anyways, I'm working on the prelude now, I'll get it up as soon as I can. You're free to your opinion, I don't blame you for questioning the validity of this especially given my lack of music background, but my intuitions and currently being relentless and I won't give up on this anytime soon until I'm convinced that nobody else can possibly see what I'm seeing. That's my challenge here now, how to get people to view music the way I'm viewing it, to see it through my eyes. I need to find that lightswitch somehow, but I promise you, once the light is on, the beauty in this music is absolutely breathtaking, it's also very, very scary.

Think of something someone might be saying to themselves in their head. In fact let's use Rach again here. Let's say he's always getting pulled away from music because of his life crap going on. His mom needs help keeping things together. She's telling him there's work to do. If I'm Rach, sitting at my piano writing my heart out, and my mom keeps telling me there's "work to do", it becomes something associated with music immediately, because it's holding him away from the damn music itself. Well well, what a wonderful idea for a piece. Rach wrote it as a sort of timestamp in his life. In fact I think all romantic music is just that, immortalizing the soul at that single moment in time. That's why he was so emotional writing it. Not to mention, the explains the alla marcia, its transition into meno mosso, rebuilds using the same march theme, repeats always work to do stuff etc. The picture to me is 100% clear and 100% real, but again I have to try to convince others of this, it's what I need help with.

Offline dcstudio

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Re: I am looking for a musical expert.
«Reply #10 on: February 08, 2016, 04:56:15 PM »

you make an interesting argument.  By musical language I was referring to terminology, concepts, and the fundamentals of music theory.   This is something you are probably not even aware of.. and I don't say that to sound condescending... I simply mean that you have never familiarized your self with the spoken language that musicians speak to one another.  All feelings aside--there are laws of physics and mathematics  that govern music.  There are also rules to tonal harmony and innovations that Rach himself made to how we play.  You have had an experience...and I do not mean to detract from it.   There is a phenomenon that occurs in the brain especially with musicians and mathematicians -- most often with pianists.   Music migrates into the visual cortex and that is the fastest processor of info in the brain.  It is amazing when that happens... but it takes the rest of the brain a minute to catch up.   All I am suggesting is to take a breath and give it a little while.   I am also suggesting that you study music theory and consciously understand the technical side of things.   It makes total understanding of music possible.


any chance you recently lost someone?  were you in an accident or was there a major life event?

these experiences tend to rewire the brain and open it to new possibilities.


I am not talking out my a$$ here.   Click the link below and you can tear up my playing if you wish.  I have taught piano for 20 years and I play professionally.   It's been my life...I have played for 47 years.  I went to music school...   you asked for an expert. :)   I have seen what you are describing... it is not a common thing... but it does happen.

give it a little while...

Offline dcstudio

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Re: I am looking for a musical expert.
«Reply #11 on: February 08, 2016, 05:56:41 PM »
dcstudio:

WORK. TO. DO.

. His "language" as you put it, is the same language we all use.

.

Rach didn't speak English at 14... are you saying the cadence of these words along with the themes... in English?  You are thinking in English and he spoke Russian.

and the musical language is not the same language we all use.  It is a language only spoken by musicians... and Rach spoke it fluently.   It is a language of technical terms and musical concepts expressed in words... not music.  It is, among other things, how we communicate music related information with each other in a quick and precise fashion... through spoken language.  You will have a far easier time expressing this if you learn how to speak music.