This week, my favourite bar is bar 51 of the opening movement of the Magnificat….(the Magnificat).
Bach is FULL of patterns! Stripes, chevrons, wavy lines…. all over! But in bar 51 of the opening movement, there is a wonderful, rare moment, when the interweaving of many strands comes together, and everyone (all 5 parts!) is doing the same thing, at the same time, in a lovely, unambiguous A major chord. Aaaaaah… Perhaps it looks like this:
Blaze #1 1962 – Bridget Riley
I have a (Magnifi)cat called Rhubarb, whom I love a lot, and his escapades are becoming more and more daring as time goes by. Recently I came home to find him on the roof! After spending a long time trying to work out how he could have got there, I realised the answer was simple…..he just decided!… That was where he wanted to go… so he jumped! No fear.
This week I’ve been taking a look at Bach’s Magnificat in D, and bar 28 of the Fecit potentiam.
Here we have the unmistakeable and arresting diminished 7th chord at “superbos” – the tenor line stands out in taking a slightly different route to join the sopranos on the G#, but it is essentially tight, sturdy and alert…the culmination of an intricate and complex interweaving of all the lines and colours of the previous 27 bars. It might look something like this:
Tibetan sand mandala
Making a new pattern can be a challenge, but if your theme is consistent and true, it will always work, no matter where or how you start, or where you choose to go with it. Put your pencil to the paper…
I was recently given a bundle of scores that were looking for a good home, and as I was leafing through my new treasures, I came across this from a concert of 43 years ago!
It appears to be copied from a hand-written (in beautifully neat calligraphy) and typed document which must have taken a considerable amount of time and effort to create, long before the days of desktop publishing! The interior layout is ….interesting…
…and it appears even to pre-date tippex… but the little bit of blurb about the choir is still quite relevant…
We are currently looking at new ways you can help support our future – it would be great if we can get our membership up to 60 again – so if you think you may be interested in joining us, or perhaps sponsoring a soloist…or a trumpet!.. look out for further notices either here, on the website, or on our Facebook page.
I’ve taken a break from the Nelson Mass this week to look at Haydn’s Insanae et Vanae Curae, and bars 185 and 186.
It’s quite a dark and intense piece altogether, and after being thrown in and out of the relentless clashes of the main theme, it eventually comes to rest on a serene major chord of only two notes. It might look something like this…
The Gospel According to Saint Matthew 1992 – Pepe Espaliu
If you find yourself lost in the forest, you will find your way to the open sky. Sit for a while… take a good look around… the path is always there! We are stronger than we think.
This week my favourite bars are bars 235/236 in the Credo.
Why do these bars (and similarly in bars 226/7) stand out? Tiny as they are, they appear to be the only real bits of syncopation in the whole piece, and that’s 990 bars! So what’s happening? It’s a game of two halves here…while the ladies are dancing, sighing and swooning all around, the men are determinedly stepping their way through the established pattern, as the grand “Amen” starts to appear on the horizon. It might look something like this:
Six-foot Leaping Hare on Steel Pyramid 1990 – Barry Flanagan
Leaps of freedom are all the better for knowing there will be solid ground beneath.
This week I’ve been listening to the almost unbearably dramatic Kyrie – “Lord Have Mercy”, and my favourite bar is bar 69, in particular the first chord.
After a four-bar escalating turmoil involving all voices, the first chord of bar 69 is the peak of the disturbance…. the Altos have an E, above the Sopranos, that cuts like a shard of glass straight through the D/G harmony between the Sopranos and Tenors. There is a similar discord in bar 67, (Altos, Tenors and Basses), but at the higher pitch, the effect is intensified. In bar 70, the pitch is higher still, but there are only 2 voices here, and by this time there is a certain inevitability about the outcome, which takes some of the edge off the pain.
Perhaps it looks like this:
T-1961-44 (untitled) – Hans Hartung 1961
Although brief, it is a dark moment, and it hurts.
It’s hard to let go of a good silence…
but as we’re not singing the choral arrangement of Cage’s 4’33” (…yet…), there are some notes to get to know…and this week, my favourite bars are bars 1-4 of the Sanctus.
The notes in themselves aren’t anything spectacular – no creaky discords or weird suspensions – so this section is all about the dynamics. In the space of just one bar and on one note, the choir go slowly from piano to forte and back again, with the force of some kind of lunar magnetism, pulling you towards it, and releasing you from its ethereal glow. Then…there is a little pause for a super-intense bit of silence… and it does it again! (I could easily listen to these bars a few more times too)
It might look something like this:
Nocturne 1926 – Max Ernst
You are standing at the edge of the sea and small waves wash over your bare feet. As each one recedes, from beneath you, it takes with it tiny pieces of your world, slowly pulling you deeper in. Mesmerising. Are you under the same spell?
Aah, where to start?! With so much amazing music to choose from this term, it’s hard to know where to begin! But we all must begin somewhere, and this week, my favourite bar is bar 127, from the Credo in Haydn’s Nelson Mass.
So what’s that all about? It’s an empty bar! ….No, not the case at all! It is, in fact, full of silence. The soloists have finished their delicate phrase…then there is a pause for complete silence, before the orchestra tiptoe in just ahead of the choir in bar 128. Silence can be very difficult to interpret. Looking at it from the outside, all you have to go on is what surrounds it. But if you are right in the middle of it, everything is completely clear.
My art reference for this is a piece of performance art, and the photograph doesn’t really do it justice, so here is a link to some more information about it. https://vimeo.com/72711715
The Artist is Present (performance) – Marina Abramovic 2010
It is extremely intimate, yet completely free. Is there a more beautiful combination? How do you feel about it?
…now, I’m sure I heard somewhere… …quite recently…. …”all great music begins with silence”.
This week’s nineties reference – the much loved “Mutant Enemy” from the credits of the prod-buttocks teen horror series “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”.
This week my favourite bars are 49, 50 & 51 of “His Yoke Is Easy, And His Burthen Is Light”.
Now, they don’t look particularly fancy…just a fairly straightforward resolution to everybody’s favourite, B flat major…so what is it about these bars that is so amazing? Well, Handel took a lot of care to connect the words and music, and as the content of this is all about lightness and easiness, there is lot of high altitude dancing and skipping throughout the chorus. However, it ends here with a slow and deliberate downward movement, which would appear to contradict the essence of the rest of the piece. BUT – this is actually where the power lies! To end on a frivolous upwards leap would be to turn the whole thing into some kind of circus trick, rather than the powerful magic that it is. Returning to the lyrics – he’s not just making it look easy and light – it IS easy…it IS light! …Completely different, fundamental, unfathomable. Perhaps it looks like this:
Felt Corner (installation) – Josef Beuys 1963
Converging mysterious forces place you firmly, but gently, on that exhilarating point that is at once both laughing and crying.
And so, as our Messiah concert is next weekend, I hope you will come along and hear many more bars. This will be my last Handel bar for now, but in the New Year I’ll be looking at some Bach and Haydn.