sábado, 3 de octubre de 2009

Neither English, nor a horn

You might think that my favorite instrument is the piano, but that's not completely true. I love it, of course, but it's always a drag for me writing for piano. As a pianist, I ought to write something PIANISTIC, right ? So I have to sit down on the piano and put my poor fingers on it everytime I write for this instrument. While for other instruments, I write my music anywhere else : from my desk at home to the seat of the airplane (with the TV screen off, unfortunately ...).
Well, I tell you who my true love is. It's the English Horn, which is in fact neither English, nor a horn (but it does make me horny listening to its sound, he he...) . The term came from its German name, engellisches Horn, meaning angelic horn. But engellisch also meant English, and so the English claimed themselves to be angels (or was it the other way around?). And then it acquired a French term, cor anglé, (angled or bent), but then mistakenly written as cor anglais (which means English, and now it's better that I don't make jokes about this). And about the horn, well, it's quite obvious that it has nothing to do with it, so I really don't know why it bears the "horn"....

Both my cantata "Ars Amatoria" and "Libertas", have English horns, whose players do NOT double the oboe. And both have an interlude that features the instrument quite boldly. Libertas even has an interlude for E.h and string quartet called Requiescat, which can be played separately. And both, intuitively written, deal with the tonality of D major and B-flat major.

I always perceive some tonalities in my head as associated with particular things, and I am always sure that I am not alone in this. A major, for instance, always give the impression of everything worldly, or earthly. Remember that Mendelssohn's Spring Song of the Lieder Ohne Worte is in A major, and also the last movement of the Franck Violin Sonata ... it's so beautiful and so down to earth ! And that's why Libertas starts with a boisterous A major, "Bentangkan Sayapmu, Indonesia" (Spread your wings, Indonesia), and the a cappella chorus, "Kita Ciptakan Kemerdekaan" (We create Freedom) is also in that happy tonality.

But then it's the tonality of B-flat major which is the real "nirvana" for me. The real truth, purity, perfection, divine. Listen to Schubert, that impromptu ... and the last sonata ! That's why the main core of Libertas, where the singers sing "For the poet, death is victory" is in glorious B-flat major. Glorious but in pianissimo. Festive but profound. Declamatory but so introverted. Only B-flat major can afford that.

And D major ? That brings me pain and sadness. "Requiescat", for english horn & strings (from Libertas) is all in that tonality. And the last song of Libertas, "Krawang Bekasi" starts with a lament of the dead heroes ... but then there is a transition from those cries of desperation to the other world ... which is in B-flat major. And that's where it ends, where they all cry "Remember us" .... from heaven. That is so different from another song "The Young Dead Soldiers do not speak" (poem by Archibald MacLeish), where it also ends with "Remember Us" ... but still from this world : in D major. The same words, "Remember Us" ... and yet with different meaning. You see how powerful music is to express feelings ? Even more powerful than words, eh?

And I can go on and on with talking about how tonalities work in my head ... but hey I don't want to bore you to death with it. The main point is that I almost always perceive my music in a certain tonality, and it always hurts me if one sings / plays my music by transposing it.
Anyway, it's weekend now, and you know what ? Weekend muses always make me write music for young people, because my daughter Alicia is always home (she won't be in a few years : she'll be in her BOYFRIEND's house ... aaaargh !!) and I just realized today that most of the pieces in "Alicia's First Piano Book" were written on weekends! So, my muse is pulling my shirt now and asking me to write something for her ... before I leave next Monday for a whole week. Hey, the Queen is coming to my concert, and I'll convince her to sign up on Facebook, ok ?