Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Friday, 12 November 2010

A hymn to St Cecilia

A second keyboard - I should have bought its equivalent forty or fifty years ago.

Yes, it plugs into the computer but won’t be used for that. More for deconstructing the intro of Lady is a Tramp (ie, I’ve wined and dined on Mulligan stew and never asked for turkey/As I’ve hitched and hiked my way along from Maine to Albuquerque, etc, etc) or fingering the B-flat scale back to when I had an embouchure and could play Cheek to Cheek on the trumpet.

I will also check out rests, slurs and ties and wrestle with four-four time, conscious that I’ve left all this far too late. Senility and/or arthritis will arrive long before semi-quaver ability.

But I’m not moaning; playing skills will be a bonus. The keyboard, which offers decent piano sound, is primarily a tool to pick tunes apart and isolate intervals which are beyond both my musical memory and that very imperfect instrument, my voice. A moment ago I played a simple hymn tune (in C-major, natch) and discovered that the penultimate line comprises a seven-note sequence: C, D, E, F, G, A, B or seven-eighths of the C-major scale. No great tribute to the writer’s inventiveness but a tiny revelation to me about what constitutes music. Alas, I’ve forgotten the hymn.

A musical ignoramus I love messing around with tunes (“Hey, there’s a black note coming up!”). I had some competence with the trumpet but there the notes had to be created and messing about was a hard row to hoe. Here the notes are laid out for me. Shortly I shall compose an accompaniment to one of my sonnets, record myself singing it and post the result. Renaissance man! But don’t hold your breath.

7 comments:

FigMince said...

As a one-time trombone player (the instrument now mounted bell-up on the living room wall and used as a 'vase' for dried flowers) I too remember the flattened E and B, but in the bass clef, and share your enthusiasm for the idea of notes/keys in sequence rather than embrouchuring from one to whatever-and-wherever-the-hell the next one might be. Maybe that's why Hoffnung always portrayed brass players as alcoholics.

The intro to Hoagy Carmichael's 'Stardust' is a rewarding lane to wander down, BB, and I recommend it from the music of the years gone by. Although sometimes I wonder why I spend so much time there.

christopher said...

And I share your pleasure with the version of the computer that we call the keyboard. I have a Yamaha Motif ES6 and wish I had the patience to learn all that it can do. I use it to hang out in the key of Eb in several voices and marvel at how changing the voice changes the music.

This keyboard not only offers a credible piano voice that varies in loudness depending on how hard I strike the keys, but offers voices that I like better than traditional concert grand. Also, I hope you have added to your board better speakers and a sustain pedal, and if not better speakers, then a good stereo headphone for privacy and clarity. That latter is really helpful to keep peace in the house.

Lucy said...

What larks...

Barrett Bonden said...

FigMince: I did try to turn my aged trumpet into a witty, living-room decoration but I felt Mrs BB would have lowered the boom. And she would have been entitled to. When I was pondering handing over my portable typewriter (acquired in 1953) to a charity it was she who suggested giving it an honourable, memorialised berth on a dining-room side table.

Stardust. It's a tune that separates the men from the boys and I'm one of the latter. When June Allyson asks James Stewart in The Glenn Miller Story why the band doesn't play Little Brown Jug he says "Well it's a song for people with tin ears." Which puts it very succinctly. Never mind Stardust's intro, the melody with its meandering rhythm (always my greatest weakness) is hard enough. I explored it then turned to the computer and checked out Nat King Cole. That's how it's done.

Christopher: I think you're several steps (if not a whole marathon) ahead of me but I'm glad the device pleases us both. I have yet to explore its electronic potential since I still can't get over the fact that it's all mine. Too often in the past I've had brief access to someone else's piano and have had to be dragged away by brute force. What fascinates me is seeing great songs (usually from the thirties) rendered as comparatively simple patterns of movement up and down the keybord. A childish reaction, I know but that for the moment is a measure of my ability.

Lucy: Larks? I could do you one ascending.

Rouchswalwe said...

The Lark Ascending was playing as I ate that fabulous roast pork in hoisin sauce dinner over the weekend. I'll never be able to separate the two ever again.

Julia said...

I'm looking forward to the tunes, and am interested in hearing your practice thoughts too!

Lucy said...

I love the Lark Ascending, and the one In The Clear Air...