Hyper Mashup: Mozart Recap, Filtering Reactions, Poolside Music Theory, Fencing with Buddha, & Anxiety Meets Coffee Mug Tintal

Well that’s that. I’m having a love affair with Mozart. Now on to the Gran Partita. My new goal is to perform a lecture series on all 3 of Mozart’s Wind Serenades. Then I’ll back up a bit and disentangle a few divertimentos.

Yours truly, Conducting Mozart's K. 388 (July 22, 2010)

My lecture recital went well. I know it must have, because it’s 24 hours later and I’m not having doubts about it yet. Usually I have these filters in my head saying, “I think it went okay”, “I did terrible”, “ He said I did great but he’s just saying that” – I could go down the list. This is the first time [ever] that hasn’t happened. I was actually happier with this performance than either of my undergraduate recitals or anything else I’ve ever conducted as a graduate student– except perhaps the culminating spring concert of Saturday Music School, but that burst of pride had everything to do with how far my students had come.

The Mozart performance was nowhere near perfect – neither was the lecture… but I was prepared for both, and so was my ensemble. Actually, it wasn’t the best they’ve played it, but knowing how hard they worked on it, and how great they sounded in rehearsals, I’m thrilled with the results.

(This is one of those conflicting Buddhist moments of mine – is it okay to be proud of an accomplishment? WWBD?)…

I can take a deep breath now that it’s over, and find a new project or two. I’ve got 3 weeks until diagnostic exams for theory placement in Tallahassee, so my head will be stuck in a mosaic of musically historical examples ‘til then. Starting tomorrow, at least I can do it while sitting by a pool in Florida (assuming we hit the road ahead of this tropical storm). Cocktail please! The Type A side of me is trying to come up with a study plan. I like chronology so I think I’ll start with Josquin and end with John Mackey. The idea is that I should be able to analyze an excerpt from any piece of music put in front of me from the past thousand years or so, and be able to pop out the composer, their compositional techniques, style, and any relevant cultural context)…. Uh huh. Getting right on that. Ironic – I’m jumping into an academic program with an emphasis on music of the entire planet with the intention of escaping European art music for a while, and yet I can’t escape European art music in my round of entrance exams.

It’s a great example in reference to the lack of standardization of ethnomusicology programs (it’s still a new field). While some of the degrees (depending on the school) are analysis-based, some are based in historical ethnomusicology, some are based in western musicology, some are based in anthropology, some are based on world music performance, and some are based in sociology. I’ve seen some ethnomusicology graduate programs that don’t require a prior music degree assuming you can speak intelligently about music and you have a strong anthropology background. Some are a great mixture of all of it (like where I’m about to plunk down). Yep – I’m grateful for that.

Random tidbit: I spent about an hour tonight vigorously playing tabla on a rough ceramic coffee mug while chatting with my partner. I counted at least 15 timbre variations on that silly mug based on fingernail tapping, swiping finger-pads, and the occasional palm slap. I wanted to record it. Maybe it’s a sign that I need to rest… or lay off the coffee… or start this degree program.

Score Study: Mozart’s Serenade in c minor, K. 388 (for wind octet), 1782

******NOTE: This post gets quite a bit of traffic.  If you intend to use/paraphrase any of the material, please inform me.  I strongly feel like there aren’t enough score study examples on the net, so I will continue to post my work – but NOT if I find they are being plagiarized.   I can and do check.


My current project is Mozart’s Serenade in c minor. I’m conducting it next Thursday night and have been rehearsing it with a fabulous ensemble on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

Here’s a random video I found on youtube of the first movement:

Although the players in this video are lovely, I don’t agree with their tempo in this first movement. It should be played just a bit faster, otherwise the piece tends to drag.

What made Mozart compose wind music? The often-told purpose is to produce music for entertainment, and often at outdoor performances. Wind instrument frequencies can carry respectable distances, and their timbre provided a stark contrast to that of their string counterparts. In addition, they have many qualities that give them speech-like character. In other words, they can display human sentiment (regardless of whether the piece was programmatic or absolute). The octet formation and the music that was written for it became known as Harmoniemusik.

My research on the piece is based on G. Henle Verlag’s Urtext score.


Dr. Luciano Soares

The master-class yesterday with Dr. Soares was thought-provoking. There were four very decent pianists.

A very nervous Chinese-American guy (friend of mine) – Schubert’s Impromptu, Op. 90, No. 4 : not expressive enough.. she was trying to get him to put his body weight into the notes, put more life into them. He come off stage with frozen hands.

Next: a very technically minded musicologist from Prague (an ex-roommate of mine) playing Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in g minor, Op. 23. Form. Texture. Form. Texture. form. Texture. The beginning melody as a monophonic texture – the first note needing to set the tone for the whole piece. First note played again and again until perfection and understanding occur – everyone knows “that’s” the one. The idea is to create an intense sound from the bottom of the keyboard, to use your whole body, to use your shoulders to add weight to it.. to lean into the piece, to treat it like a heartbeat. My favorite concept from this particular segment was not necessarily particular to this piece (which I have loved for some time now and heard many, many times). Once the pianist thinks of the piece as a conversation with types of sentences: statements, questions, answers, etc… it becomes crystal clear – it becomes musical again.

Then: the delicate ballet dancer (someone I’ve had classes with for years now): Souvenirs D’Andalouisie by Gottschalk. Spanish influence is immediate. The piece was played with such delicate hands – and then she made her play it… Bring the Spanish bass line in the left hand forward..use it to move the piece forward.. play it with fire, like a prima donna.

The question came up in my head: When does “I love this song” sound inappropriate? When does music become a “piece”, or a “work”, and not a “song?”..

The last pianist: a good friend of mine from Bosnia – Sonata No. 13 in Bb Major, K. 333 by Mozart. This one was interesting – the piece bores me to tears… but the idea of Mozart as one of the hardest composers to play – the texture is thin most of the time, and so transparent. There are only a couple of notes going on at a time. It brought up the recurring theme to my world these days: just because a piece looks easy on paper doesn’t mean it’s easy to pull off in a performance with the integrity the composer intended. Soares notes, “the rests in this piece are equally important to play as the notes”. She played it well. She learned to “taste the harmonies”…