"Faking" it

November 26, 2014

This post appears originally on my blog:
http://mathewsjames.blogspot.com/2014/03/faking-it.html
The musical examples noted here can be found following the above link since embedding images is not as simple on here.

So the title of this post is misleading, sorry, but that is just what it is. This post will be back about my learning process and Nebadon, and what I am doing with this work. Though it is worth noting that this is one of my big concept things I feel strongly about, especially towards new music. For now, let's jump back on starship Stockhausen and depart for Nebadon (nerd alert).

One thing I truly respect about Stockhausen's music is by and large it is rather quite playable, that is not saying it is easy, it is actually rather difficult. It is full of little things that at first look simple but turn out to be either complex or downright ludicrous, be it in it's coordination, execution, or simply playing it with a beautiful sound. I will put two examples of this on here.

So above are those two examples. There is nothing really complicated about the patterns, they present some challenges, but again, nothing to lose that much sleep over. (Ignore my markings since that is some analysis and such that I have talked in brief about before). So back to the challenges that exist in these examples. With the first example, the challenge is can you make a nice clean shift between open and stopped, maintain pitch, while entering delicately on a higher pitch. BUT, the priority here should be can you do it with the singing sound that you would use in Brahms, or Schubert.

Example number two, the challenge is facility in the low range, clarity, a good trill, and a resonant sound. This is good enough for a sub par version of this lick (which appears in various permutations throughout the entire work (over 20 minutes!!) It is a tricky little lick, but executing it has to be a guarantee, not a good enough.), what I am truly striving for is can I make a "majestic" or "interesting" musical line out of the material, in such a way that nobody notices this slightly unidiomatic horn lick.

Since Stockhausen writes music that is very playable I am going to pull an example from another work I am preparing that is more towards the... "are you kidding me? I'm not a bass clarinet" kind of lick." Which will help me make my bigger picture point.

As you can see, this is a little further away idiomatically from something horn players are used to seeing. (The work is full of this, and it grows in complexity, and each permutation you get LESS variance in what pitches you need to draw attention towards.) So this is the kind of lick my title was referring to, Faking it. Anyone who knows me knows that when I hear someone say "I can just fake that" is akin to nails on a chalkboard. So I think I will take moment to explain that, and as well relate it back to Stockhausen, and Sirus (dork) in general.

If you have ever been to a new music concert, you have heard (and probably in great supply) faking. Otherwise known as, kind of making the gesture. Now, some of you have probably made it to see a concert of new music that seemed to be so insanely good there must have been some witchcraft going on. Well, there was no witchcraft, you probably heard someone(s) who had spent countless hours getting it AS CLOSE to the ink as possible (while keeping a wonderful, intune, captivating sound, that is full of musical gesture). If you imagine playing Beethoven and the player beside you is "faking" it, you would know they were not up to par, and that person would most likely not be in that chair next concert. Could you imagine a concert of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra with a string section full of faking it (you probably can...). When you compare those to performances where they "nailed it" why would you ever buy the other product.

As a performer I feel obligated to make sure I can play the music as well as I can. If that means I have to woodshed a lick up until the day of the concert that is what I will do, I can't personally accept "faking" it as an answer for any kind of music. So back to Nebadon, I am focusing on always having this wonderful sound that is full of colour and intrigue. My sound model is the same that I would use playing Cello Suites (in C) on horn. If someone froze time on a single note, I wouldn't want them to think that I was playing some strange modern music (or isn't good...). I would want them to be able to say what a great resonate note, he must be playing some Schubert. (Then when time resumes they would be in for a treat)

This isn't a problem unique to new music but it seems to be a slightly more accepted practice for one reason or another.