Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The third degree...

I am absolutely thrilled with my school experience here. In recent weeks, I've started to realize just what a gem of an experience I am having.

It's taken me many months to be able to identify just what is so enthalling to me about the study I'm doing there. After all, the subject matter is not entirely new to me. I mean, truly...Just how much harmonic analysis can one endure in a lifetime?!

And Bach? Mozart? Old hat. Been there, done that.

Or so I thought.

As readily as Americans recognize freedom as a core value, my European colleagues can spot erroneous parallel octaves a mile away and understand rules of counterpoint to be virtues. As much as we, as Americans, are intrinsically drawn to good service and big cars, so too are my musical neighbors magnetized by Bach's tasteful modality.

And the motivation for musical pedagogy here is quite grand, I think. Music theory is not a widely recognized field here where professors are awarded large grants to pursue the placement of a line or dot in a Schenkerian analysis of some long-lost piece found in the misplaced trash can of Mr. Schubert. Rather, this is the craft of their soil. Their not-so-far-away neighbors. Their interest in the greatest composers of all time is entirely organic.

So here I am, being taught and surrounded by those who are the grown children of the Viennese School. The distant cousins to the Masters studied all over the world, but who can only be claimed by the Western Europeans. Mozart is as closely-related to musicologists here as Elvis is to a Memphis-ite...Although they may not share a direct bloodline, there is definitely some kind of earned ownership present.

And I am lucky to be invited for a deeper look.

If you are interested in being taken in by some music, or if you would simply like to pay some kind of homage to the rich musical traditions which gave roots to most of the beautiful music we know, take seven and a half minutes out of your day to listen to the alto aria from the St. Matthew's Passion by Bach titled "Erbarme Dich." You can purchase it on iTunes for 99 cents (I particularly enjoy Helmuth Rilling with the Bach-Collegium from Stuttgart).

Forgetting whether the text means anything to you religiously, just listen to way in which the violin and the soloist work off of each other. Listen to how the accompaniment pulses steadily and unabtrusively in the background. Perfect elegance and sophistication. Perfect.

Of course, there are thousands of pieces out there worth listening to. This one has had particular impact on me lately, so maybe you'll get something out of it as well.

With love and inspiration,

1 comment:

Gabi & Jolie said...

And they are lucky to have YOU, my dear. Trust me, the rest of us just got smarter by merely reading that last entry.

Still I have to look up like 6 words you used. . .