Sunday, November 30, 2008
If Music Be the Food of Love...
Around Thanksgiving it's good to remember the things that we do a lot and often fail to take account of.
For me, one of them is playing music with friends. Not for performance -- none of us is interested at all in performing in front of an audience, though we are competent enough players -- just to enjoy the musical conversation of playing together.
I do this in several different contexts: with Princeton Recorder Society, a keen group which meets monthly, different conductor, usually a name in the world of early music, with a trio, sometimes a quartet if we're lucky, of friends meeting at a friend's house, with accompaniment from her husky who occasionally joins in, especially when the local fire whistle goes off....with another friend who is a terrrific pianist, modest way beyond her talents which are amazing.
We sight read, occasionally play music we're already familiar with, but we don't sweat it.
I've played a number of instruments over the years, recorder being the most consistent, largely because there are local groups to play with, and in the last year was given a longterm loan, totally unannounced, of a very good silver flute played by a friend in a statewide youth orchestra many years ago, and in need of a new player.
So I'm teaching myself flute and having a great time -- this is where the pianist friend comes in -- piano flute duets are an occasional, when I can get her, she's busy, pleasure for both of us. I bring my keyboard with me because it's permanently tuned to A440, meaning it stays on the currently accepted pitch without tuning, unlike a piano, which has to be tuned regularly.
Friend's piano is tuned a half step below A440, for practical reasons, perfectly tuned within itself, but not working as a duet instrument with a flute which can't really be tuned down a half step, hence bringing my own keyboard. She has one but it's downashore (NJ shore) and is a fullsize keyboard, all the octaves of the piano, not very portable! mine omits the top and bottom octaves and I hardly miss them when I play keyboard.
All this sounds very solemn, but it's largely a hoot! wonderful fun to make music together, and make a lot of discoveries at the same time.
My seasonal wish: try it! if you never learned an instrument, do yourself a favor! or if you never had any singing lessons, see if there's a group class locally to try it out. I've played piano, violin, voice, recorder, all the voices of recorder, that is, and now flute, and I never had a better time in my life.
We play early music -- medieval and renaissance on the recorder, later music on the flute, which was not invented when recorder was big -- flute being known as the transverse flute, the recorder being an early flute -- and the piano wasn't invented then either. So it's nineteenth century and later on piano and flute.
One thing you need is the ability to allow for looking like a total fool every time you play, and once you realize that's perfectly fine, you can have such a good time.