Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Thousand Words III: "Charm"

I am definitely one to harp on perfection in music, because that is my ultimate quest. One of the reasons I write so many miniatures is because I can assure their perfection: Pieces longer than about 100 measures just get "out of hand" for me, because keeping every note of them in my head simultaneously is just "out of bounds" for my level of acuity. One ought to work within their limitations while working to minimize them, in my opinion. But, there is another equally interesting characteristic of music that can actually be expressed via imperfection, or "quirkiness", that I call "charm."

My little Mac dictionary/thesaurus that comes with OS X.iv has as the definition I'm referring to for "charm" as, "an attractive or alluring characteristic." The most appropriate word in the thesaurus for my purposes here is "charisma."

It may come as a surprise to many who read this blog, but I am a big fan of the music of Niccolo Paganini and Franz Liszt. Not merely because of the dazzling virtuosic brilliance of it, but because of the charisma of their personalities that is reflected in this music. As a technician, I could take countless tacks to berate that music. But you see, I don't care about the imperfections because I simply love the music. As a side note, If you have never heard the late organ works of Liszt, you are simply ignorant: He was a profoundly deep and introspective musical emotor by his late years, and virtually every color the French Impressionsts ever came up with is there, only Liszt had more compositional talent than any dozen of them.

Beethoven's music straddles the fence: It is perfect and charismatically charming at the same time. No mean feat. Bach's miniatures are charming, but also perfect. I like the characteristic many of them have that intimates that they have existed forever: Bach just "discovered" them. My best half-dozen pieces give me that feeling, and I wouldn't trade any one of them for all of Bruckner's symphonies (Which are neither perfect nor charming: They are musical lead-weights of sixteen tons apiece).

If we relate that to one of my favorite subjects, feminine beauty, I would compare the (admittedly photo-manipulated and idealized) photo of the readhead I posted earlier to Kirsten Dunst: Kirsten's proportions are all wrong, she is not very symmetrical, and her teeth aren't even straight. But... There's something about her! That's charismatic charm.

Over the years, several critics of my music have ventured the opinion that I'm too "up tight" and ought to let my weird, wacky personality shine through in my music more. Those who know me best usually say things along the lines of "You are such a hilarious guy, but your pieces (And/or writings) are so deathly serious." I actually consider that the most valid criticism of what I do, but I intentionally put myself on an agonizingly slow evolutionary path for a reason: I want to absorb the old contrapuntal and homophonic techniques deep down into my bone marrow before I "strike out on my own": I'll have to be healthy and composing into my eighties to get there. I'm betting it will be worth the wait.


Blogger Joe Words said...

Andante says fooee to those readers who say your writings are deathly serious. He gets enormous pleasure in devouring your combination of words. However his is still digesting “contrapuntal”. If the imperfections of Lizst, Paganini and Bruckner evoke the image of Kirsten Dunst, Andante wonders what pictures materialise when Hucbald listens or plays one of his favourite pieces – The Theme from Musetta’s Waltz in La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini?

3:12 PM  

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