30/12/2015

Persian music, piano, percussion and organ

I started a new series of organ pieces, based on patterns taken from my piano composition Rhythm Pattern Melodies VII. A few years ago, I made a recording of this piece in a version for piano and percussion, with the very talented percussionist Renato Peneda:


A certain pattern from this piece, representing a 16+9 metre, serves as a loop (or groove, ostinato) for the left hand in a piece called The Loop Man # 16+9, with the feet playing a modal melody and the right hand improvising. The 16+9 metre is subdivided in (3+3+3+2+2+3) + (3+2+2+2). 



The Loop Man # 16+9 is dedicated to Mohsen Mohammadi, an eminent specialist on Persian traditional music, and Bahar Rezaei. During a seminar in Mumbai in 2006 and several times since, Mohsen Mohammadi and I had very interesting conversations on a certain resemblance between Persian traditional music and my way of improvising. Both are based on a clearly organized set of formulae which has to be intensely practised over a period of many years. In Persian music this set is called Radif, which on Wikipedia is referred to as follows:


"Radif (Persian: ردیف, meaning order in Persian) is a collection of many old melodic figures preserved through many generations by oral tradition. It organizes the melodies in a number of different tonal spaces called Dastgah. The traditional music of Iran is based on the radif, which is a collection of old melodies that have been handed down by the masters to the students through the generations. Over time, each master's own interpretation has shaped and added new melodies to this collection, which may bear the master's name.
The preservation of these melodies greatly depended on each successive generation's memory and mastery, since the interpretive origin of this music was expressed only through the oral tradition.
To truly learn and absorb the essence of the radif, many years of repetition and practice are required. A master of the Radif must internalize the Radif so completely to be able to perform any part of it at any given time."

Mr. Mohammadi sent me the following links concerning Dariush Tali, an extraordinary performer and scholar, who is one of the last to have worked with the old masters of Persian music.:


12/12/2015

Breakthrough: moving away from the brains: practising César Franck's Premier Choral (Part Four)

As I pointed out before, I had a period of inactivity after which I started to play the organ and the piano from scratch again, as it were, thinking of Busoni who did that several times during his life, as a way to renew oneself. While practising Franck's Premier Choral I discovered something which now changes my attitude to playing the organ and the piano, both as an interpreter and an improviser: leaning back a little and direct the body's centre of gravity to the plexus solaris. Reading about this part of the body (quite near the stomach), I understand that this new attitude may imply a shift in concentration from the brains towards the subconscious. In any case, it improves the breathing. Fascinating, a kind of breakthrough towards a next level of The Art of Doing Nothing (the art of playing with relaxed precision).




06/12/2015

Practising Franck's Premier Choral - Part Three -

Franck indicates Maestoso and Largo for the slow passages, but in many performances this is ignored. In my opinion, the Maestoso is a little quicker than the Largo (towards the end of the 19th century the original meaning of Largo has changed).  The trumpet at the beginning of the e minor section should be a bit louder, i.e the swell box should be a few millimeters more open. That is why it is so useful to have a swell box with an absolute indication on a scale from, for instance, 1 until 100.
At 4'55" it can be seen how playing without shoes allows for a legato between c-sharp and b-flat with the left foot and consequently being able to keep the right foot on the swell box.


The e minor Cantilene is not yet sweet enough, it should sound like music in heaven. Something to be worked upon. As the Americans say: there is no such thing as a free lunch.

02/12/2015

Joseph Haydn - Pieces for a Musical Clock 1792 no 1, 2 and 3/ improved version

As I said in my previous blog post, I was not quite satisfied with my performance of the first three pieces for a musical clock by Haydn. I recorded them again and now all ornaments in no 1 are "crisp and tasty" or, to stick to culinary terms, al dente. The timing of no 2 is better and no 3 is without wrong notes now. But more important the position of the upper part of the body has improved and allows for a more relaxed attitude and better breathing.