Downpours Inspire Creativity for Music and Poetry

Downpours Inspire Creativity for Music and Poetry. Ah, Gardens in the Rain by Claude Debussy. How refreshing. Debussy was an impressionist. He featured French Folksongs in this magnificent opus.  He was proud of his French heritage. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his Gardens in the Rain. It gives the impression of being in a country cottage during a rainfall. When I hear most pianists play it, I feel like it should be titled: Gardens in a Tornado. I have a saying that call on  three “T’s”  Tempo should be Tempered With Taste. This is especially true when playing the music of Debussy. I hope to post myself playing Gardens in the Rain soon. For now I’ll share another recording. Here is a regal medieval dance called the Sarabande by Debussy. It uses majestic triple meter. This means 3 beats to a measure. The order is strong, weak, weak over and over. However in the masterful hands of Debussy, two beats to a measure are often inferred. I hope you can hear my bringing out the groupings of twos and threes. In the hands of the French composer Claude Debussy, measure lines merely become a marker as time going by.

Downpours Inspire Creativity for Me in the Catskill Mountains of New York

Downpours often inspired me to write poetry in the Catskill Mountains. Rain in the mountains is especially fascinating. While the entire youtube video below is about 12 minutes. After 6:24 seconds my poem, Like a Mountain Be appears. It celebrates the featured topic: Downpours Inspire Creativity.
Image result for picture from Scott's Oquaga Lake HouseSample David, reciting his poetry,  on the front page thumbnail of DSOworks.com. Click on picture trail to purchase the book on the site.
Finally my contribution to the “Downpour” repetorie: El Nino in Sarasota features a continuous rainfall with the perpetual motion Spanish rhythms on the piano. This work was written while watching an all day downpour.  Very few have the technique required to play the double stops. Click on “El Nino” below.

El Nino by composer/pianist David Ohrenstein – YouTube

Mar 13, 2016 – El Nino is a wind that blows and brings continuous rain. As I looked out of my … El Ninoby composer/pianist David Ohrenstein. Dso Works.

 

 

Debussy’s Clairvoyant Claire de Lune

Debussy’s clairvoyant Claire de Lune is a profound mystery for me. Its music is elegant, graceful and lyrical but yet it found its way into Claude Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque. So what’s so unusual about that? A suite is usually a collection of dances, sometimes with a prelude The Suite Bergamasque has four numbers: (1) the Prelude (2) Menuet (3) Claire de Lune (4) Passepied. Three of the four numbers belong in a dance suite: the prelude, menuet and passpied. Claire de Lune is program or descriptive music about the Moon: no dancing. So why is it there? One answer is that  both the words bergamask and moonlight are found in the poem, Clare de Lune by Paul Verlaine, given below:

Claire de Lune, poem by Paul Verlaine

Your soul is a chosen landscape
Where charming masqueraders and bergamaskers go
Playing the lute and dancing and almost
Sad beneath their fanciful disguises.

All sing in a minor key
Of victorious love and the opportune life,
They do not seem to believe in their happiness
And their song mingles with the moonlight,

With the still moonlight, sad and beautiful,
That sets the birds dreaming in the trees

And the fountains sobbing in ecstasy,
The tall slender fountains among marble statues.

I have chosen a second answer. I believe that either Debussy or his editor knew, either by intuition or clairvoyance, that Claire de Lune would be a great and lasting classical hit. They placed it in the suite as a third number. The parallel position in today’s Broadway musical show would be called the 11 o’clock number. The hit ballad is saved for this place. Claire de Lune shines like moonlight on the other three numbers and elevates the level entire suite in the same manner that a hit ballad elevates a musical. I do not wish to negate the value of the other three numbers. A hit number can carry a show, suite, symphony or make anything into a success.

Clair de lune”, (“Moonlight”) Op. 46 No 2, is a song by Gabriel Fauré, composed in 1887 to words by Paul Verlaine. What most people do not know is that  Gabriel Fauré, wrote his Claire de Lune three years before Debussy began his, which is in his Suite Bergamasque. What most also do not know is that Faure taught Debussy composition. Also Debussy wrote his Claire de Lune in five flats just like Faure’s. Faure’s is in Bb minor while Debussy’s is in the major mode.  Did Debussy choose to follow the path of his instructor and perhaps even try to out do him? Please listen to both Clair de Lunes. See if you agree with me that the poem is much closer to Gabriel Faure’s musical sentiment than it is to Debussy’s. I feel that Debussy’s is positively romantic while Faure’s  fits the line: Sad beneath their fanciful disguises. Feel free to email the site with your answer as to who you prefer.

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Look to the Past to Face the Future

Look to the past to face the future with absolute confidence.  The very thought has a built in paradox: How can looking backwards get you ahead? Yet, this is exactly what happened in the musical arts of France in the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th centuries.  In my opinion the action of looking backwards to go forward took the extremely brilliant mind of Claude Debussy as well as his contemporary composer friend, Maurice Ravel and others.  I have been reading and studying L’art de Toucher Le Clavcin by Francois Couperin. It was first published in 1716. I feel that in some ways, it lays the groundwork for the impressionistic movement. Of course, the harmonies of impressionism differ dramatically from the Couperin’s earlier prototype.

Claude Debussy in 1908.
                                                                                                                                              Debussy is not the man who would be king:
                                                                                                                                               He is the king!  

 

 

One extremely important instruction that Couperin offers today’s performers of Debussy involves dynamics. That is, whether or not to play loudly or softly in a particular musical passage. Couperin writes in his musical treatise that it is up to the composer to make the music louder or softer by the notes on the page. For a louder section, he places more notes in his chord or musical passage.  For softer passages, notes are be removed.  Melodies were often supported by thinly realized harmonies. This helps in making subtle playing even when many notes sound at once. Old keyboards did not play louder and softer by degrees: They could only contrast loud and soft by use of a special pedal.  According to Couperin, the quantity of notes that  sounded at once made the volumeThis kept both vulgar and excessively loud playing to a minimum.  My teacher learned these techniques from Alfred Cortot in the 1920’s, and I offer piano lessons which offer these techniques.

Today’s pianists, by and large, overplay the compositions of the impressionistic composers. For the most part,the sound of the music takes care of itself by means of the extra notes that that Debussy or Ravel wrote into the musical score. I have been preparing one hour of the of Debussy’s music to be available on this website.  In doing so, I have discovered a hidden technique that Debussy used. Its purpose was to tell the pianist what note or chord to emphasize. Also, the absence of the use of this device  meant to play the notes or chords in a gentler manner.  Since beginning this project, I have nothing but awe for the genius of Debussy. In my humble opinion, I think he was not only had a totally brilliant mind, but he was a great, great innovator with good taste.  I cannot describe the wonderful feeling I have anytime I get even a tiny insight into what Debussy had in mind in his music.  Stay tuned for more Debussy and Ravel blogs.