Thinking About Music II

Continuing the “music 29” discussion from, Thinking About Music


Music 29 – Jung Lin – – (December 25-31, 2010)

Our Lovely and Talented Tour Guide

Jung Lin

The wonderful Jung Lin ♥ ♪ ♪ ♥

Where we left off was we’re using the selections of works to play made by pianist, Jung Lin — as indicated in her YouTube and videos, the audio music page on herwebsiteher Aspen Institute program, and the works mentioned by music critics and the press in rave reviews on her website and on the internet — as a nice guide to what to listen to, think about, and learn about next.  There are SO many composers and works of composers.  Having somebody smart like Ms Lin pointing out pieces she’s admired enough to invest in learning is a nice help to an enthusiastic amateur.

Chopin’s Studies … and Godowsky’s Studies of Chopin’s Studies

First stop:  Chopin’s Etudes.  Jung Lin is said to be (among many other things) a Chopin virtuoso.  The playlist that centers on her selections has several Chopin works.  Two are from an interesting opus called Chopin’s piano Etudes (that’s the French word for “studies”).  But there’s also a guy named Godowsky who did “Studies” on Chopin’s “Studies.”  wtf?  Let’s find out.

Frederic Chopin (1810-1849, died young.  French ethnic, Polish national).  Considered a master of romantic era music.  Focused completely on piano.

Wikipedia article on Chopin:

“According to Tad Szulc, though technically demanding,[62] Chopin’s works emphasize nuance and expressive depth rather than sheer virtuosity.Vladimir Horowitz referred to Chopin as “the only truly great composer for the piano.” “

“Chopin reinvented the étude,[65] expanding on the idea and making it into a gorgeous, eloquent and emotional showpiece. He also used his Études to teach his own revolutionary style,[13] for instance playing with the weak fingers (3, 4, and 5) in fast figures (Op. 10, No. 2), playing in octaves (Op 25, No.10) and playing black keys with the thumb (Op. 10, No. 5).”

Article on Chopin’s Études.  There were always “studies,” short works students could practice.  But Chopin’s Études, some written while he was still in his teens, dramatically upgraded piano playing technique and also turned the normally drab studies into art forms of their own.

Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938, became Polish American, Polish Jewish ethnic, born in part of Russia that is now Lithuania).

Article on Godowsky’s studies on Chopin’s studies.  It appears that Godowsky further dramatically upgraded the piano playing technique.

So the idea is that “studies” always existed as exercises for students.  Chopin wrote his to be technically much more demanding to develop student hand skill, to gaining better expressive effect (very characteristic of romantic era), but also be more artistic.  Godowsky, apparently, further innovated in creating better technique to give even more expressive and interesting effects.

Chopin had 27 Études/studies.  Two sets of 12, Opus 10 and 25, and 3 additional ones with no opus number.  On this base, Godowsky created 53 or 54 (depending, apparently, on how you count them) studies of Chopin’s studies.

The first ones to look at are the ones Jung Lin has on the audio page of her website … oh … ok … i now understand what she did with the chopin and godowski on her website.  she plays the chopin “butterfly” and “black key” etudes followed by the godowsky study “badinage” that combines the two in order of “black key” first, then “butterfly.”  got it.  great.  already have butterfly and black key videos on the playlist.  now add the godowsky study.  makes sense.  nice going, jung.

Also, [Note 2].

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No 3

Next stop:  Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No 3.  Something interesting happened here.  A music critic said Jung Lin played that piece powerfully.  I couldn’t find a vid of Jung playing it (at first.  more on that in a moment), so I searched and YouTube had a vid of Rachmaninoff playing it himself.  It’s on the playlist now.  I was underwhelmed.  I don’t see the power in it.  Well, I was just testing my links in this page to Jung Lin’s site and — wow — at the moment, a short excerpt of her playing Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto comes up automatically when the “enter this site” page before the home page loads and — wow! — she definitely plays it with power!  She plays Rachmaninoff better, more powerfully, more expressively, and — the critic had it right — just plain more powerfully than he did.   Check it out.  I’ll try to find the full video.  But, for now, a short piece is here.

[update:  Jung Lin is very good, but it didn’t make sense that she would be playing Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto more powerfully than Rachmaninoff himself.  At least not THAT much more powerfully.  After what the critic had said, I was so surprised by the Rachmaninoff performance that I had to go back and change my initial comment in the YouTube playlist description essay to remove the comment that, apparently, Jung Lin was powerfully playing “an already powerful composition.”  : )  The answer to the riddle is this:  I’ve now learned that Rachmaninoff’s 3rd piano concerto is a 45-minute 3-movement musical composition.  The video of Rachmaninoff playing what I thought was the “full” concerto was only the first 10 minutes of the 16-minute first movement.  So what I was seeing and hearing Rachmaninoff play was the slower, softer, gentler beginning of a work that would later build higher energies.  The part on Jung Lin’s website is a well-selected excerpt of less than a minute from one of the later more powerful and dramatic parts of the concerto.  Puzzle solved.  : )

By the way, regarding the length of the concerto.  There are six videos of Jae-Hyuck Cho’s performance that add up to about 45 minutes.  I think that’s the right length to have in mind.  There are also 3 videos of Olga Kern playing the concerto that add up to only about 30 minutes.  My guess is the video uploader for Olga’s version just decided to make the performance fit into three 10-minute vids, while Cho’s uploader worked around the then existing 10-minute upload limit (it’s 15 minutes now) to show the entire concerto.  Ok, I just listened to the third vid of lovely Olga and the video ends before the concerto ends.

Olga Kern

Bravo to the uploader for allowing us to get to know the Ms Kern, the lovely and brilliant Russian pianist, now 35, who started at piano at age 5 and has dazzled audiences ever since, but wish he/she had captured the full performance.  So many female classical musicians.  So little time.  Anyway, I’m glad we got all of that sorted out.  : ) ]

Bach-Rach, Transcriptions, Arrangement, Partidas, & Sonatas

Rachmaninoff was famous for his own original works, but also for his “piano transcriptions” of other great earlier and contemporary music.  His transcriptions to piano in the 1930s of Bach works from 1720 for solo violin became popular and have been nicknamed, “Bach-Rach”.  Bach (1685-1750).  Rachmaninoff (1873-1943).

Transcriptions can be made of works originally written for other instruments (as with Bach-Rach changing violin to piano) or, in many cases, other combinations of instruments (such as piano version of Liszt’s 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody for Orchestra and Liszt’s piano version of Saint-Saens’ symphonic Danse Macabre).  Oh, I just noticed that the Jung Lin performance video on the playlist of Midsummer Night’s Dream is a well-known Rachmaninoff transcription of Mendelsohn’s work (probably for an orchestra … here’s a link … ).

There are two samples of Jung Lin playing “Bach-Rach” on the audio page of her website.  There are also two of other people playing the same works on the YouTube playlist.  They are both Rachmaninoff’s transcriptions, made in the 1930s, of Bach’s “Preludium” (some write it as “Preludio”) and “Gavotte”.  They are both from Bach’s Partitas and Sonatas for Solo Violin.  So that makes the point.  Rachmaninoff, apparently, was impressed with the melody of the solo violin pieces.  Since R was a piano-oriented guy, he wanted to play those great pieces on the piano.  He knew they would sound different because a piano sounds different from a violin, but he wanted the beauty of the original composition to be retained in the writing, the transcription, to the piano.

And that’s the essential difference, in music technical language, between a “transcription” and an “arrangement.”  They are similar in that they are based on a previous composition.  They differ in that a transcription usually has the intention to maintain as much similarity to the original work as possible, despite any changes in instruments written for, while an arrangement, even if for the same instrument or instruments, often intends to make various kinds of changes.

This discussion also raises the issue of the meaning of, “partita.”  Wikipedia says it originally meant a single piece of instrumental music, but came to mean little sets, or suites, of musical compositions.  In the Bach-Rach context, the meaning of partita is the latter, a suite.  Bach’s apparently famous “Partitas for Solo Violin” were three sets, suites, or partitas with several compositions each.  Wikpedia: “Bach also wrote three partitas for solo violin in 1720 which he paired with sonatas. See Sonatas and partitas for solo violin

Here’s a comment from site called, “”:  “Bach-Rachmaninov: Prelude, gavotte & gigue from Partita for solo violin No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006, transcribed for piano [3:14, 2:54, 1:09]”.  That tells us the Bach-Rach pieces that seem to be most well-known and often-played are from the 3rd Partita, are called Prelude and Gavotte and Gigue, in that order, and are pretty short (1 to just over 3 1/4 minutes).  Total of just over 7 minutes.

I think it would be good to add the violin versions of those three works to the playlist.  Let’s see what Rachmaninoff was hearing in the 1930s that made him want to create piano versions.

Was wanting to verify the 1720 and 1930s dates for the Bach and Rachmaninoff versions of Bach’s 3rd Solo Violin Partita’s Prelude, Gavotte, and Gigue.  Found the 1720, that’s solid.  In looking for the 1930s fact, found, as usual, something else interesting …

this Wikipedia article

… says Bach himself transcribed a lot of his own work to other instruments and quite a few people other than Rachmaninoff transcribed his work.  Also, it looks like the 3rd Partita is the only Bach that Rachmaninoff transcribed.  Had the impression he transcribed a lot of Bach.  Maybe it’s just that the one three short ones he did became so popular.

Ok, this Wikipedia article listing Rach’s works, shows he did quite a few transcriptions, but only the one Bach solo violin partita with its three short movements.  The formal title of Rachmaninoff’s work is, “Paraphrase.”  In the part of wikipedia’s list entitled,”transcriptions,” some have titles beginning with “transcription” and some have titles that say, “paraphrase.”

“Paraphrase of Bach: movements from Partita No. 3 in E major for unaccompanied violin(BWV 1006)”

Also, as I’m looking for videos of the violin version, I’m finding words like, “first three movements” of the 3rd partita.  So, apparently, Rachmaninoff didn’t transcribe the entire partita.  good to know.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand … isn’t wikipedia great! … the next link goes to a page for the Partita itself which shows that Rachmaninoff chose three movementsn — movements 1 (Preludio … i’ve seen it as prelude or preludim), 3 (Gavotte en Rondeau … i’ve seen it mostly as gavotte), and 7 (Giga … i’ve seen it mostly as gigue) — of the total 7-movement Partita.

I found Hillary Huff’s lovely violin performances of Bach’s original 3rd Partita’s Preludio, Gavotte en Rondeau, and Giga movements and placed them on the playlist near the Bach-Rach piano transcription versions.

Scarlatti coverage of 2007 Aspen Institute program – Jung Lin playing Scarlatti

History of Piano

This is pretty cool.  The Piano in World Civilization with David Dubal and Jung Lin in discussion and performance at the 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival.

From the Fora.TV website:  “In this, its third year, Aspen Ideas Festival once again gathers scientists, artists, politicians, historians, educators, activists, and other great thinkers around some of the most important and fascinating ideas of our time. As these thinkers present their provocative ideas, they engage a sophisticated and highly motivated audience.”

Imagine that.  There was a time when there was no piano.  In this series of videos (on, not on YouTube), David Dubal does a great job of detailing the development of the situation from “no piano” to the piano taking over as an instrument of central importance in the music world.

Simeon ten Holt

Canto Atonal Goesonforevero — See and hear the 4 vids on the Jung Lin playlist, ♪ ♪.  It ‘s not Jung Lin playing, but Jung Lin played it as one of four pianos in a free outdoors performance in New York City.

The real name is Canto Ostinato (1979).  By composer, Simeon ten Holt.

As a musical type, it can be described as modern, atonal, minimalist.  As to era, it can be called post-romantic, modern, and 20th century.

Canto Ostinato has its own website.  One of the detail pages says ten Holt intended for a great deal of variation in how it’s played.  The number and type of instruments can vary.  The performance mentioned by one of Jung Lin’s reviewers was 4 pianos.  I don’t have videos for that day.  The 4 videos on the playlist are with 2 pianos and 2 marimbas.  Other groups of instruments can be used.  It also allows for a lot of variation in how long any particular phrase or section will be played.  ten Holt left it up to the performer.  The use of “time” and “repetition” as part of “tension and release” is a major theme in ten Holt’s theory of his work.  Performers can play different parts or play “unisons” (more than one instrument playing same part at same time for the tonal effect).  They can also change the sequence of parts.  Apparently, in the written instructions in the music, there are repeating phrases/expressions/passages with either elegant or abrupt transition bridges among them.  Performers can move forward or backward among parts, skip parts, play parts for a long time, or play parts for a short time.  As a result of all of this, a performance of Canto Ostinato can be for an hour — or for several hours.  My first notice of Canto Ostinato, and that it can give rise to lengthy performances, was in one of Jung Lin’s reviews where the New York Times media writer says she dropped by to catch “the final hour of Canto Ostinato (1979), an attractive Minimalist study in shifting textures, density, and volume, performed by” Jung Lin and three of her friends “on four grand pianos under greenmarket tents on Corneila Street [New York City].”  : )  Cool.


Jung Lin playing at the Aspen Institute again: Schumann Opus 1

What’s A Study?  Étude?  Sonata?  Fugue?  Cantata?  Tata?  Tatas?  What?  Ok.

We began with the lovely Jung Lin as tour guide for finding interesting things to focus on and learn about in this HUGE world of classical music.  We then were delighted to discover that the lovely Olga Kern shares Jung’s interest in Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto.  Clearly, the universe was telling us to follow the play selections and back stories of BOTH lovely female classical music instrumentalists as our source of hints for what to investigate next.  What Gwen Stefani was for ska, Courtney Love was for grrrl rock, Serena Williams and Martina Hingis were for tennis, and Billie Joe Armstrong and David Bowie were for … what?  that doesn’t work?  because guyliner isn’t the same as what?  …  ok  …  Anyway, so we now have two lovely tour guides through the wonderful world of classical music — Ms Jung Lin and Ms Olga Kern.  Fine.

Ms Lin and Ms Kern play musical works that have names like study, Étude, and study of etude (Lin) and sonata and fugue (Kern).  They probably both play all the types, but those are the ones I’ve noticed so far.

Scanning through readings about these various terms gives me a couple of initial impressions.  One is the usual confusion factor presented to anyone studying any big and complex new knowledge area for the first time — the same words have had different meanings evolving over time, have different meanings in different contexts, and have overlapping meanings even in the same context.  In other words, the little problem that the “range of validity” idea, when habitually and consistently applied, always solves.

“Sonata”, for example, comes from the Italian.  At its simplest, it means, “something played”, as opposed to, “something sung.”  That fits what one reading said about “sonata” sometimes being used as a synonym in Italian to “study” in English or “etude” in French in the sense that the latter two words have when they just mean, “exercise for students to do to learn and practice.”  We’ve learned that Chopin changed the meaning of “etude” when his Études became advances in both technique and became works of art on their own.  Then Godovsky published Studies of Chopin’s Études which continued adding to the dual general/specific meaning of the words, “study” and “etude.”  Apparently, “sonata” has a different, but similar, story.  It also evolved from being the Italian word for pretty much anything given to a student for learning and practice, but went even further to become a structure of musical composition with known characteristics.  And, when this happened, it became one of two such well-known and accepted musical composition structures, theother being, the even more structured, “fugue.”




On Jung Lin’s audio page is her performance of “Navarra” by Albeniz.  My first impression was,  “hm … sounds a little like deBussy.”  I like deBussy.  So, when I check Wikipedia on Albeniz, I’m expecting to find “late romantic era” or “influenced by late romantic era”, maybe words like “tone poem” … well … not exactly seeing that … right time period.  But, from listening to “Navarra,” I wouldn’t have guessed his main theme was “folk music idioms.”  Oh, well.

Here’s the intro to the Wikipedia on Albeniz:  “Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual (29 May 1860 – 18 May 1909) was a Spanish Catalan pianist and composer best known for his piano works based on folk music idioms (many of which have been transcribed by others for guitar).”

Well, I like “Navarra” a lot and think of it and him, for the moment at least, in my own terms as, “Debussy-esque” and “TonePoem-al.”  I’ll just leave it there for now.  [Note 1]

Joichim Raff (1822-1882)

Again, from Jung Lin’s audio page.  Jung Lin playing two pieces by Raff: “La Fileuse” (The Spinning Woman, about 4-3/4 minutes), and “Ode to Spring” (about 10 minutes).   Both pieces make me think “DeBussy” and “impressionist music” again.  Don’t know if experts would agree, but that’s not terribly important.  Often, at some point, interest and attention and enthusiasm — intelligently and systematically applied — catches up with and sometimes outperforms the experts.  But that’s not all that important either.  What’s useful is to let all the various factors and devices sustain the interest and fun and wonder and discovery in becoming more a part of the experience of the new knowledge area, in this case, the classical music world’s dealings with sound.

One tends to associate a phenomenon with the first place one really noticed it.  Like, for me, the subtle changes in (I think) key in Raff’s Fileuse create sounds I associate with DeBussy and Afternoon of a Faun.  The high-keys fluttering in “La Fileuse” and “ode to spring” make me think Chopin’s Butterfly and Black Key Études and Godovsky’s Badinage Study of Chopin’s Butterfly and Black Key Études (all 3 of which I only know because they were on Jung Lin’s list).

As Raff’s Ode to Spring got further in, over half, and horns and strings were building and flowing, I find myself thinking, “ok, at this point, it’s less like debussy’s tone poem faun and, you know, if somebody just turned this section on without the first half and said, is this Raff or one of Beethoven’s less dramatic symphonies, not the dramatic staccato symphony 5, but maybe the more flowing 3 Eroica or Pastorale, I wouldn’t know.”  If that impression is right, then Raff combines a DeBussy impressionist tone poem quality — maybe atonal (but no dissonant atonal, if that makes sense … i don’t think atonal is always dissonant … atonal is mainly no particular key) — with a Beethoven style of romantic era use of strings and horn flow.

It’s not important whether that’s right.  What’s useful is to have the intention to try to put words to verbalize the direct experience of the music and, after listening to the music, to try to do that … all of which increases the degree of engagement with the music, and the impression into memory … good stuff … makes it more interesting and fun … If, later on, weeks and months and years later, part of those impressions still seem to be “right”, or if reading some respected expert says some of the same things, that’s fun.  if, later on, all of it needs to be corrected, also good.  getting a first impression and theory and verbalization is a step on the path to having better ones.  all good.

Here’s a good thing to do.  It’s been a while since I’ve listened to DeBussy’s L’Apres-Midi a Un Faun yet I instinctively compare lots of things to it.  Because it’s so smooth, elegant, and, in so many ways, clearly well-crafted.  But, with this Raff Ode to Spring item that’s making me think “first part, very DeBussy mimimal impressionist Faun and 2nd part, often pretty much like Beethoven softer symphonies with horns and strings,” it’s maybe a good time to listen to Faun again.  Abracadabra — it’s on the playlist now.

Well, Faun has the harp playing an elegant role, evoking magical ideas, in the beginning amid the soulful woodwinds that start the theme that will get the many variations.  There’s horns and strings, but soft and slow.  Though they build for a moment, it’s a controlled measured moment, and it’s only a moment.  And there’s the part at 4 minutes (of 6:10 in first vid and of about 12 min overall for the two vids) in that sound like we’d be seeing the faun suddenly be startled to notice something.  and then become peaceful and luxurious again.  ok, one thing:  my recollection is correct.  there’s NO confusing DeBussy Faun and the 2nd half of Raff Ode to Spring or Beethoven’s symphonies.  Faun remains sort of a benchmark for comparing other things to.  Cute … in 2nd vid … another cute tone sequence that’s like the faun was startled to notice something again … and then flourishes that make one think either the faun or something around him is whoooosh rushing about beautifully … then serene  music again … Ok, this is REAL different from Raff or Beethoven.  Wow … toward the very end, Faun goes VERY quiet.  I didn’t remember this part.  Elegant little chime clear slow 3-chime-note, 3rd note is really interesting, sequence amid soft soft soft ever softer woodwinds, to slow slow and very soft quiet finish.  Wow.  Great.  Glad I went back to this.

From Faun to Pastorale and back to Ode. Listening to Ode again.   I think there’s a lot more traditional melody and scale work in the slower softer part of Raff’s Ode than in DeBussy’s Faun. DeBussy seems more intent on using sound to create moments of experience rather than to create melody lines.  I think that may be the essence of why somebody created the concepts of “tone poem” and “symphonic poem” vs. all the other concepts of musical form that have more traditional melodic content like “concerto”, “symphony”, sonata, fugue, rhapsody, and so forth.  Ok, Ode’s finishing and it’s a pretty big Beethoven-like crash-bang-boom discrete-step finish, VERY unlike the almost imperceptible finish of Faun.

Faun‘s back (The playlist is just playing along).  It’s layered.  All three — Faun, Pastorale, Ode — are layered.  I guess any orchestral work is layered.  But Faun seems layered with almost independent little novelties swirling around and overlapping.  There’s not really a melody one could sing along to, like the others.  The playlist just started Beethoven’s 6th Symphony Pastorale’s first movement again.  And, yes, there’s layering here, but it’s mostly layering of a lot of instruments into one big sweeping stream of complex chords for textures of a single melody line.  Or sometimes one of those with a second somewhat smaller one of those as accompaniment and as … well, maybe that’s what’s meant by “counterpoint”.  have to look into counterpoint sometime.  i don’t know what it is, but i know it was a big deal when it was introduced and systematized.  in Pastorale‘s first movement, there’s a very little bit of seemingly-independent little flute twirl novelties decorating the more robust full chords early in the movment.  Whereas DeBussy’s Faun seemed mostly seemingly-independent slow-swirling novelties that amazingly sounded great as they worked together.  through most of Pastorale, I think I could hum along the main melody line if I spent enough time with it.  Don’t think so with Faun. Different kind of melody progression.  Makes me think of the ten Holt minimalist Canto Ostinato.  That’s an even more extreme case, I think, of composing to create moments of experience vs. create traditional melodies.   The playlist just automatically went back to the beginning and is Jung Lin playing Liszt 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody again.  It’s making me think Liszt here is doing a little of both — by which I mean both creating singable/hummable/pretty melody line and succeeding in creating emotion/mood.  Which expressiveness, emotiveness, is one of the principal characteristics that began to be prevalent in the romantic era of music (1815-1910).  I love Jung Lin’s performance of HR2.  However, I think she should hold the sustain pedals or the keys down just a bit longer on those opening dramatic low notes. “)  Wow, she’s really marvelous on the part that starts about 5 minutes into the approx 9-minute piece where Liszt sort of teases us with that great back-and-forth BUILDING IT’S GOING TO TAKE OFF no it isn’t YES IT IS no it isn’t YES IT IS … let me get the exact time on the video (in case my description above isn’t 110% clearly identifying the passage) … it’s all so good, but the part I was gushing over starts at 7:30 on the vid and goes for about 30 seconds.

That rhapsody is SO rich.  That makes another interesting point actually.  It’s about whether the small phrases in a longer piece each seem to have interesting character the closer to listen to an overall work.  DeBussy’s Faun has a very different tone and character from Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 2.  Faun spends most of its time in serene mood, flits to magical, to a few moments of surprise or motion or magical flourish, goes back to serene and closes gently in serene.  Hungarian Rhapsody 2 starts out dark, serious, and dramatic … continues pretty sad … brightens a bit while still at low energy, but eventually gets up and runs in lots of expressions of fun, funny, sassy, flirtacious, exultant … one more short dip toward quiet, maybe sad … then happy finish.  a real emotional ride.  Another measure mentioned above along with layering:  singable type of traditional melody or not.  Faun – mostly not.  HR2 – pretty much yes throughout.  But the point is, on yet another measure, they are both fascinating and charming and interesting and engaging in their component parts from start to finish.  I want to see and hear them again and again.  More so, I think so far, than the sequence of piece parts in Raff’s Ode.  Pastorale? thinking … yeah … the the phrases, passages, and transitions are interesting and engaging there.  Not 100% sure, but I think so.  What I am sure about — and I ran into this when discussing rock guitar riffs and the issue of “natural internal timing” of the solos and riffs — that one of the measures of a great classic musical work is how well it stands up to enthusiastic listeners returning to it to listen more carefully to its detailed moments, phrases, and transitions.  Do the details remain gorgeous and interesting?  Or do they seem a bit, well, ordinary?  I believe there’s a Geshtalt, Pirsig’s Quality, knowing, aesthetic sense that — and it was Pirsig’s point — can show up anywhere in life (including motorcycle maintenance and industrial things, not just in “the arts”).  There are lots of theories about what gives rise to “it” being “right”, but something like purpose, structure, components, themes, subthemes, timing, color, tone, mood … maybe also audience, that’s one of the places the study and theory of “aesthetics” gets tricky … but, for now, let’s just make believe whether it’s right is about what’s “out there” “over there” — all the elements coming together in the right proportion and the right way — gives the attentive observer the opportunity to say/know/perceive that … it’s really right.

Having stuck my neck out here on Faun and HR2, and probably Pastorale, being a notch or two above Ode in the quality — the Quality — of all their parts and the unity among them, I’m almost afraid to let the playlist cycle down to play them all again.  Actually, can’t wait.

Didn’t listen yet.  The playlist got stuck in Canto Ostinato. “)

Some characteristics/dimensions/measures/criteria, things to look for, came out in the paragraphs above.

– whether the piece evokes/creates/alters/influences emotion/experience (most of the best probably should)

– whether it has a singable/hum-able melody line (not necessary.  just worth noticing whether the work uses traditional melodic patterns)

– whether the individual parts are engaging/interesting (the more so, the better)

– whether there’s effective unity/sequence among the parts (the more so, the better)

– whether it influences the lovely Taiwanese pianist to hold the sustain pedals or the keys long enough for optimal effect  (just kidding … )

– whether the whole is appealing and effective (the more so, the better)

– whether the work stands up to repeat visits and to closer and closer examination of its elements, sequences, unities (the more so, the better)

– whether all of that adds up to a sense that it’s really right — along the lines of Pirsig Quality, aesthetic sense, knowing, Gestalt, etc. (should be yes for the best)

Listened to Raff’s Ode to Spring.   A few times on the YouTube playlist (Peter Aronsky playing with Basel Radio Orchestra, 18 minutes on two youtube videos) and a few times from Jung Lin’s website (her playing with Jupiter Symphony, about 13 minutes on one audio file).  Not sure why the difference of 5 minutes on the same piece.  I liked the JungLin/Jupiter version better the first time.  Not completely sure, but I thought I was hearing different touch on the piano, smoother other instruments in orchestra, better mix of audio of piano and rest of orchestra, and both the parts and the whole seemed more together/natural/working somehow.  There was one odd transition in the JL/J version, but maybe that’s where the 5 minutes went.   Maybe they cut it for some reason in the middle.  I think the audio acoustics, particularly the mixing of piano and rest of orchestra, which must be a little tricky, is better on the JungLin/Jupiter audio file.  Anyway, that’s two different performances of Ode.

I’m listening to it once yet again.  Setting aside the role of performance and just looking at composition, I think some of it is just not all that artful or clever.  Like the banging ascending build that happens at about 4:30 in the first video.  There’s a lot of cool Chopin-esque Butterfly Étude-like high keys flutter stuff to like.  Jung Lin really plays that part fluidly, luxuriously — the notes flow together like raindrops and like harp arpeggios instead of as discrete piano notes.  It’s amazing.  I’m listening now.   That may be why she plays this piece.  To show she can do that.  Wow.  But, still, back to the composition … when I think of either atonal Faun or tonal Hungarian Rhapsody, their piece parts seem to me ALL — ALL — to be interesting and well-crafted, while some of Ode, at least in my experience so far, is ordinary.   Not all of it, but enough to notice.  Still listening to the Jung Lin / Jupiter version … her piano touch makes much of what seemed ordinary seem less so.  I can see why she would want to play this piece.  The speed, lightness, delicacy, fluidity of her touch is really amazing.  With that progress, for for getting the display of the piano finesse in many places — it’s a one-composition mini-collection of chopin’s and godovsky’s Études/studies — but back to the composer.  this isn’t just a work for piano.  it’s a work for piano and orchestra, probably a concerto.  the piano collides a lot with the other instruments, and sometimes takes breaks that don’t seem right to me, in my view.  jung lin should transcribe it to solo piano.

ok.  no more time, at least today, for living with Raff and Ode. Summary:  Jung Lin — absolutely amazing in that piece.  Have anybody else’s hands ever been quite that good at creating delicate sounds?  Ok, that’s why she’s said to be among the best Chopin players in her generation.  Wow.  Re: the Ode to Spring – love it narrowly as a work that lets a pianist try to do what Jung Lin did with it, play it as a one-work chopin/godovsky Études/studies study.  But only like it, not love it, as an overall composition that builds a nice high-Quality blend of every little thing about it.  One enthusiastic amateur’s opinion.

So, I’m not completely sure I’m “right” about Raff’s Ode to Spring itself being — in my experience (after all, all of this is my own personal subjective reaction) — a notch or two under DeBussy’s Afternoon of a Faun and Liszt’s 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody and Beethoven’s Pastorale for overall composition, engaging component parts, transitions, and overall Quality, but (1) I’m leaning in that direction and (2) it’s been an effort, not a joy, to come back to find out what’s up in me about Ode. Item (2) is not a good sign, because it means I’m not finding myself naturally/intrinsically motivated/drawn back into it to do things like get a map in my mind of the entire composition, or keep going back to find new cool stuff, or keep going back with only the idea that I’m likely to be delighted all over again by its mastery, perfection, elegance, unity, Quality, and lack of aspects that “don’t quite fit” or “don’t quite work”.  It’s a problem when I go back to a piece and, while maybe finding some new cool stuff, keep seeing the parts I think are sort of hackneyed, not artful, not elegant, not showing the master’s touch of perfect balance.  Almost all music can be “liked” in the sense of its being played in the background for nice environment while mostly doing and paying attention to other things in life, but only the best works — performed well — get “liked” in the sense of being listened to again and again with full attention on the music itself.  Update: my last listen to the Jung Lin version gave me a good reason to go back.  I’m AMAZED that someone can make a piano sound so fluid, as if it were a woodwind with continuous notes, instead of a piano with discrete percussive notes, in the fluttery sections.  Wow.

All this fussing doesn’t matter really, of course, but it’s fun to take it seriously and try to figure out if the truth of our experience (vs. expert or other opinion which may or not be a good guide to truth of our experience) is telling us clearly that something is definitely more or less of this thing … or less or more of that thing … or maybe considerably more or considerably less of the other thing … and whether that’s — in our own experience — good, bad, better, or worse … and why.  Like Eddie, Jim, and Don on VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show debating all those issues in “The Throwdown” segment as if everything depended on it.  : )

Anyway, I thought DeBussy and Liszt and Beethoven might be better than Raff on my first listens.  But when I listened again, I’m no longer sure.  [Update:  this was written before stuff above it.  I’m sure now.   Bee, DeB, and Liszt are better overall craftsmen than Raff, though Raff really knows how to make the piano shine when it gets into the hands of someone like Jung Lin.  Ode is a great piano showpiece, but an uneven overall concerto.]  They were all pretty fast listenings.  Although I’m sure he’s very good, Raff’s not really on the top of my priority list.  He’s only on the list at all because Jung Lin played two of his works.  Next time I listen, who knows?  They don’t have to be better/worse.  They can each be what they are.  Not trying to force value judgments.  Am just using the increased attention to issues and detail to allow natural assessments to flow from experience due to the enhanced attention to what’s going on.

One lesson, I suppose, is the obvious one — there can be many reasons for variations in the performance of a work and many reasons for variations in the acoustics we experience with either live or recorded performances.

I think there may be some repetition in all of that.  What?  No way that could be?  You serious?  Yes?  Yeah, right.  Take a hike, wise ass.  : )


Note 1

I put this down in “notes” because it’s more about the learning process and less about the music itself.  Not everybody’s interested in that.  Plus, it’s a little disorderly yet since I’m still in the process of getting clear on what’s going on now and how it fits in the overall work of tackling the classical music knowledge area again in the last couple of months.

If you weren’t confused by all the terms in classical music, you can skip all this discussion of remembering what the confusion was and how we’re getting out of it.  For me, it’s verbalizing what happened and what’s happening during tackling a new knowledge area as part of being interested in understanding and improving the meta/awareness level of the cognitive process of self-directed learning.

Verbalizing Direct Experience of Music

Is that the right topic for the synthesis/processing that’s going on right now?  For what’s going on in the wake of not really agreeing with Wikipedia’s characterization of Albeniz, and noticing I’m starting to apply two different organizing concepts — “time period” (for which I have the standard dates and terms for eras) and “description” (for which I’m starting to make up my own vocabulary)?  Or would the right topic be …

Building a Framework in Mind for Organizing Experience of Music

Or maybe both.  Probably both.  Definitely both.  Verbalizing the direct experience, and using both existing and newly-self-invented terms to do it, is part of building and using a framework for organizing, holding, and overall experiencing the experiences of individual works of music — and via connotations, associative memory, the composers of the works.  Constructionist cognitive activity.

Not sure how clearly that came out.  Probably not too clearly since I’m still using the writing to get clear on what it is that should be coming out, what the experience is and has been.  Literacy used in cognitive constructionist activity.

I’m noticing that I’m now thinking both in terms of (1) “era” or “time period” and (2) nature or qualities or characteristics of the sound and experience.

I was doing that from the beginning of this series of discussions, but in a way that was causing more confusion than clarity.  For one thing, I wasn’t clear yet on the date ranges for the eras.   I was slow to burn the date ranges into memory because, at first, I thought direct experience of the music would reveal the natural groupings without memorizing the date ranges, but that got thrown off by the very different sounds of the romantic era — Wagner vs. especially earlier DeBussy but also earlier Schoenberg and later Beethoven.  And by the expressive emotive classical era Vivaldi Four Seasons sounds seeming a lot like some of the romantic era sounds.  I was being too simplistic about “era” vs. “characteristic sounds of the era.”  The “eras” often do say something about “characteristic sounds” — especially about when certain kinds of sounds first appeared — so they’re useful, but there are limitations and there are a lot of exceptions.  One example, three classical era Bach 1720 violin partita movements being transcribed for piano by Rachmaninoff whose career, I think, was both late romantic era and definitely modern era.  Same basic music style, different eras.  On the other hand, baroque era and classical era composers and music (compared to their romantic era counterparts) were limited by the technical development of instruments (some instruments not yet reliable or fully-functional as today, some instruments not yet invented), the number of players playing (methods for composing works of many players of many instruments not yet developed, plus no funding yet for lots of people, plus no big middle class outdoor audiences yet), the number of listeners listening (a few people in salons vs. lots of middle class in big houses and outdoor festivals), the narrow social class and taste and expectations of aristocratic elite (vs larger number of middle class too who hadn’t already talked themselves out of emotional expressive content of music) audience.  So there is a certain narrowness of range of sound in baroque era and classical era music compared to the very wide range of more expressive sound that became also possible in the romantic era (1815-1910).

So, if it has a big symphonic sound, it’s not likely to be baroque or classical, unless its a symphonic transcription or arrangement by a later era composer.  If it sounds like it’s a harpsichord or clavichord, or one or two or just a few peppy violins, odds are its baroque or classical, unless a later era composer decided to write in the earlier type.

So those are most of the issues.  So the efficient way to organize the thinking is probably to note the actual date of any piece being experienced/listenedTo, along with composer, and associate it with what’s being heard/experienced … hm … we’re arriving back to direct experience of individual pieces of music/sound and the labels that point to them (name, composer, date) and then associate attributes/characteristics to them.  and, this is good:  each piece so experienced, named, and characterized becomes an item of vocabulary for characterizing other pieces.  i.e, can say a piece is “like Debussy’s afternoon of a faun” or “it’s like Bach’s Violin Partida Gavotte”.  Or “that deBussy Claire de Lune” is real different from Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.”  Which means one way to describe a newly-experienced piece of music is to compare/contrast with other pieces.  Ok.

There’s “DeBussy-esque”.  That’s compare/contrast again, but less precise than compare/contrast with other individual pieces of music or parts/phrases/sections of other pieces.  DeBussy-esque can get someone who knows DeB’s work into the ballpark, but DeBussy in early late-romantic-era part of his career was different from the dissonant/atonal part later.

Direct experience of musical works, and portions of them … having identifiers to refer to them … associating characteristics to them …. that’s a fundamental piece of how to proceed intelligently through all of this.  Listen to, experience, feel, notice one piece one or a few times.  Notice what you notice.  Associate the aspects of experience with the name of the work, the composer, and I would build in awareness of the era for a complete memory unit.  Move on to the next piece of music sometime. Experience it the same way.  Compare/contrast phrases/sections and overall of new piece with prior piece(s).  Repeat, repeat, repeat at a natural pace and depth that’s interesting and fun.

Not unlike the idea of having using movies as a vocabulary.  “Oh it’s a date like the one Bruce Willis had with Kim Basinger in Blind Date.” Or, “It’s a defining moment like Costner says in Tin Cup.”  Or, “it was a sign like the scoreboards in Field of Dreams.”

Also, not unlike the Ben Parr “meme” idea.

One last “it’s like” point.  Like answering, “what’s chocolate ice cream taste like?”.  Can’t do it.  No words can create the taste of chocolate ice cream in someone.  You have to have the taste first, and then you and others can refer to that direct experience with word labels of various kinds.  Same with music.  Can talk about it a gazillion ways, but nothing replaces direct experience of the music works and their parts — and then placing verbal labels and descriptors onto the experiences.

There’s also the qualitative descriptors … soft, gentle, emotive, fast, powerful, atonal, dissonant, quarter note intervals, counterpoint, tone poem, … but all of these have to be defined/understood in order to communicate clearly …

Which takes us back to individual musical works and — more precisely — moments, phrases, sections of individual musical works.

And there it is.  Closure.  Completion.  Clarity.

Facts include the experience of the music itself, its various names/labels, it parts being the same or different than the parts of other pieces … also how, if we can tell, the parts or sections are being produced (violin and piano in unison with choral) … also what they are in sense of triplets, descending/ascending notes, tubas oompahing, woodwinds/flutes fluttering …

More qualitative words … syncopated … but we only know what that means because we’ve heard music said to be “syncopated” … it can be described, but we only really know what it is when we hear it in association with the word … impressionist …

Obvious stuff.  Obvious now, but, when I was deliberately inundating myself with lots of music data in order to begin quickly (in a few days or week vs. years or decades) to see the patterns and trends and repeats in the flood of info and experience, it wasn’t at first that perfectly clear.  Most things are obvious once you’ve seen them for the first time.  : )  True.

Note 2

Chopin’s Études

Summary of quite a few pages:  This note starts with Chopin’s Études … leads to Godovsky’s Studies of Chopin’s Études … and to what’s the difference between Chopin’s Études and Godovsky’s Studies … and to finding and reading sheet music for piano … and to role of sustain function and sustain pedal in Chopin’s and Godovsky’s studies … and to all three piano pedals … and to the notation in piano sheet music for the sustain (right), sostenuto (middle), and soft (left) pedals … and to listening to Jung Lin playing Liszt’s 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody while reading the sheet music for piano right hand, left hand, and sustain pedal … and that’s the summary of this note.  Now for the note itself:

It has become clear that Chopin’s Études were a landmark in the development of piano technique and sound.  Jung Lin’s reviewers make a big point of saying she’s among the best Chopin performers of her generation.  Godovsky, when seeking to show off his own innovations, made a point of basing his Studies on Chopin’s Études. I might be mistaken, but I have the impression that, anytime that really remarkable fluttery sound appears in a work by Raff or Rachmaninoff or anywhere, that it’s doing again what Chopin did first.

Paul Barton’s videos do a nice job of discussing and demonstrating several of them.  He makes the point that Opus 10 No 1 (nickname, “Waterfall”), apart from being beautiful, trained the pianist’s “weak three fingers” — the middle, ring, and pinky fingers — to gain strength particularly in the aspect of separating pinky from ring and ring from middle fingers.  Paul tells us Opus 10 No 2, apart also from being beautiful and remarkable in its speed, strengthened the weak fingers in both striking power and endurance.

How clever of the young French ethnic Pole, Chopin, who wrote some of these Études in his teens and lived only 39 years, to create “studies”, “exercises”, that were not only practical and strengthening, but beautiful works of art in themselves!

Paul Barton’s videos are addressed to the player (vs. the audience like you and me) which in an interesting perspective for audience folks like you and me.

The two BBC Channel Four videos which cover Vladimir Ashkenazy’s performance of Études Opus 10 No 1 and No 2 — with a huge crowd assembled somewhere in a concert hall — tell us clearly that Chopin’s Études were not just “studies” in the sense of mundane “practice exercises”, but were also beautiful compositions, works of art, in themselves.

Notice in the first of two Paul Barton videos on Étude Opus 10 No 1 that, in the lower left corner, he pops up little graphics that say, “bars 17-22” or “bars 49-62”.  That’s telling me that’s how musicians deal with the problem I’ve been having of trying so say/write about exactly which part of a musical work I’m referring to.  I’ve been using things like, “when the tubas start oompahing” in Liszt’s 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody … and “5:45 into that second video … and “when the violin plays and the first long fluttery piano part starts in Raff’s An Ode to Spring.  : )  Paul just spoke of “bars 73 and 74”.  Very nice.  Very concise.  Very precise.  He also speaks in terms of “sections” — four in Opus 10 No 2 and 6 or 7 in Opus 10 No 1 (“Waterfall”).

I guess if you learn a piece of music from sheet music (vs. from just listening), you get a ready-made visual “map” of the piece that can be put and kept in mind (vs. organizing/creating one to put in mind.  either way, if taking the time to enjoy knowing a piece at various level of structural organization and detail, have to “construct” it in mind.  maybe the sheet music images get overlaid with Lucas-Lorayne-style lively images as mnemonics).

Paul Barton is a very clever educator.  Notice his use of orange highlighting for the accent notes on the music and the way he puts orange light on the whole video screen when those notes are being played.  Also some of the things he advises students to “think” and “envision” while playing seem pretty clever.

Oh, look!  The very lovely Valentina Lisitsa has placed videos of all the Chopin Études on YouTube.  And she has a CD one can purchase.  Great!  And there are lots of other videos on YouTube of her beautifully playing a wide range of gorgeous music from many composers.  Here’s another by Chopin, Polonaise “Heroic” Op 53 and Valtz Op 69-1.  Like Liszt 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody, this Polonaise has a very familiar sound, but I haven’t known the music by title or composer.  Now I do!  Here’s another that looks like it might be a Liszt piano transcription of a Tsaichovsky orchestral work.  It’s as wonderful to watch Valentina as it is to listen.  Oooh.  And this, apparently a Horowitz piano transcription of a Carmen-related orchestral work by Bizet: HOW CAN SHE — OR ANYBODY! — DO THAT?!  Here is part of the answer.  Valentina’s YouTube channel.

Valentina Lisitsa

So many female classical music artists.  So little time. ♥

Chopin wrote 27 Études — 2 sets of 12 (Opus 10 and 25) and then 3 more with numbers but no opus number.  Some — maybe all — of them, have nicknames.  Chopin didn’t give the nicknames.  The nicknames became popular later.   The ones I’m aware of are:

Opus 10:  No. 1 (Waterfall) · No. 2 (Chromatic) · No. 3 (Tristesse) · No. 4 (Torrent) · No. 5 (Black Key) · No. 6 · No. 7 (Toccata) · No. 8 (Sunshine) · No. 9 · No. 10 · No. 11 (Arpeggio) ·No. 12 (Revolutionary)

Opus 25:  No. 1 (Aeolian Harp) · No. 2 (The Bees) · No. 3 (The Horseman) · No. 4 · No. 5 (Wrong Note) · No. 6 (Double Third) · No. 7 (Cello) · No. 8 (Sixths) · No. 9 (Butterfly) · No. 10 (Octave) ·No. 11 (Winter Wind) · No. 12 (Ocean)

The later and last three without an opus number are often called:  Trois nouvelles études

Great audio and sheet music vids for the Etudes.  I put a bunch of them on the playlist that had the nicknames for the works.

Also, I noticed some vids that can help with the question of how the Chopin Etudes might be same or different as the Godowsky Studies of Chopin’s Etudes.  I put in Chopin’s Opus 10 No 1 followed by one of Godowsky’s studies on it.

First listening … trying to separate the performer vs. composer effects.  The Godowsky vid has a performer with a more subtle touch.  As to composition difference, only thing I noticed at first was possible difference in left hand (low notes).  Maybe instead of single short-sustain chords seemed like they were longer-sustain and maybe patterns of chord plus a note.

I’m going to enjoy struggling with this a bit, to see if I can pick up the Chopin vs. Godowsky differences/contributions before reading somewhere about them.

Second listening.  I think part of the difference is in the left hand, but I don’t have it clear yet.  In the original, the left hand sounds like, not chords, but single notes.  But the sheet music shows two notes.  Maybe octaves?  This will take a moment.  Back in the 4th grade year, I taught myself from a piano book how to count lines and spaces from the G of the (upper) G-clef and F of the (lower) F-clef to find notes inside, above, and below the clefs — with middle C being on a short-line half-way between the clefs.  But I never worked at it long enough to get fast at spot-reading notes without the counting of lines and spaces. : )

looks like octaves … 3 little lines between and changes from space to line or line to space … that’s octaves … more observations … vid of chopin version has 12 images … 4 6-bars, a 9, a 6, a 9, 5 more 6-bar … so that’s 10×6=60 bars plus 18, for 78 bars of music in the chopin original work.

re:  musical timing … i never got very far with reading the timing in music, but i’m pretty sure if there’s no number over a number, it’s so-called “4/4 time” with 4 “beats” per “measure” or “bar” … i think also the little “c”-like symbol in both clefs is also an indication of “4/4 time” … i understand 4 beats per measure, so that explains the meaning of one of the 4s … i never understood what it means when there are different numbers like maybe 4/6 or 6/4 … but that’s not what we have here … moving on … so the left hand starts out with a whole note tied across a whole measure to another whole note … does that make the entire first sound a 5-beat duration? … um, no … i’m remembering now … in the only time signature I ever thought I understood, 4/4, pronounced as “four four”, a quarter note is one beat … so that first left hand sound, written as a whole note tied to another, will be 8 full beats, two full measures …

Chopin Etudes – Opus 10 No 1 – First Six Bars

ok, that’s helping … so in that first image, the sound we’re listening for in the first six bars is a long (8-beat, tied whole notes) sound followed by 2 shorter (4-beat, whole note) sounds followed by another whole note … but … uh oh … before the whole note ends … um, remembering something else that’s basic … without little sticks/poles on them, the notes are whole notes … with sticks and not filled in are half notes (2 beats) and with sticks and filled in are quarter notes (1 beat) … so before that whole note ends, two quarter notes come in … i don’t know … maybe that means hold them and hit the sustain pedal (as i recall there are three of them so i could be for left side) … anyway, two quarter notes, then another whole note … ok, so now that we’re prepared to listen, let’s listen and see what it sounds like …. no guarantee, by the way, the performer is using this particular sheet music version or that he/she is playing it exactly as written …

ok, there’s part of why i was getting confused … i don’t think the performer’s playing the quarter notes, at least not as clearly as the others, and he/she’s playing a little stutter on the first note … like bih-duhmmmmmmmmmm …

By the way, for anyone reading this that never took a bite before out of how to read sheet music — and are looking to start diving in and bootstrapping into being able to move around in sheet music a little — the left hand of the piano player is written on the lower of the two connected long thin 5-line grids (called, “clefs”).

i don’t think the performer in the original Chopin vid is playing the full left hand.  i think he/she is focusing on all the fast action of the right hand and just playing single notes, not even octaves, on the left hand.

now that I’ve gotten my eye (singular … inside joke) reminded how to look around in sheet music, i’m right away noticing, even before playing the Godovsky first study on Chopin Opus 10 No 1 again, that it’s written to have a LOT more action going on in the left hand.  It’s not a question of single notes vs. octave pairs.  The Godovsky sheet music has a quarter note starting note, followed by an ascending triplet and then ascending and then descending sixteenth notes:

Godowsky Study of Chopin Etudes Opus 10 No 1 – First 6 Bars

Ok, if we counted it right, there are 78 bars in the original Chopin work.  Let’s test that against the sheet music in the Godovsky vid … 13 x 6 plus 2 x 3 less 2 … not working … it’s a little longer, 2:05 vs 1:55, 10 seconds … ok, let’s get measures per image … 6, 3, 6, 6, 6, 3, 4, 5, 6(45) … well, that’s enough of that … that was fun … returning to a little reading of sheet music … what? right. very little.  : )  hey, lots of things can be fun and satisfying without being really great at it.  golf.  sex.  reading sheet music.  writing music blogs.

anyway, returning all the way back to the original observation: yes, there is some difference in the left hand (low notes) between the original Chopin first etude and the first Godovsky study of Chopin’s first etude.  single and two-measure whole notes and quarter notes on the left hand are converted into chords plus pretty elaborate bass lines.

hm … it also changes to 3/4 time signature.  which, i guess, explains the odd thing in the Godowsky left hand F-clef that many measures have a dotted half note (meaning half note plus half a half note, the dot means add 1/2 of the time of the note) plus a triplet and two 4-note sixteenth-note clusters.  i don’t completely understand how 3/4 time signature works except that the measures become … i thought somehow three beats … but this is showing 6-beat measures … instead of 4-quarter-note (4-beat) measures.  So the dotted half note would … no … ok … got it … it is 6 … dotted half note is 3 beats, triplet is one beat, and each group of 4 tied sixteenth notes is a beat.  so that’s what the Godovsky version is doing.

I just noticed that the Godovsky version is putting the entire original right hand of the Etude into the left hand.  That’s ballsy.  I was wondering what point Godovsky felt he was making by doing studies on Chopin’s famous studies and this is part of the answer.  Godovsky obviously decided to start out big and bold and put all the play in both hands of the first Chopin etude into just the left hand of the first Godovsky etude.  :”)  Ok, Godovsky.  I guess you made your point that you feel you’re a pretty good piano performer, teacher, and composer.  :”)

So Godovsky’s re-write of the first Chopin etude is not just ambitious, bold, and arrogant, it’s also smart.  It’s an exercise that makes the left hand as fast, flexible, and expressive as the original etude made the right hand.

I’m not sure about the audio quality on the Godovsky version we’re working with.  I could hear that something was different about the left hand, but, now that I can see from the sheet music what he did, I think I should be able to hear the bass melody line more clearly.  Going to try to find another performance of the Godovsky version.  Found one.  Marc-Andre Hamlin.  Can hear the arpeggiated (the little red line under arpeggiated says it’s yet another new term invented here at wb4all-land) left-hand bass line a little more clearly.  still not as clear as i would expect.

but, as i was straining to hear the left hand work, another thing i noticed was that the chord strokes seemed to sustain a while.  makes me wonder again about the sustain pedals i noticed on my grandmother’s piano when i was in the 4th grade messing around with it and trying to learn stuff from a piano lesson book.  seems like there were three pedals, which would make sense.  rethinking sustain pedals … first thing to know is, when press/strike piano keys, they play notes.  yeah, i know.  obvious.  but less obvious is that the sound dies off slowly as long as you hold the keys down, but gets muffled almost instantly by little pieces of felt every string for every key has inside the piano box.  so if you strike a chord and take your hand away, the sound sounds and then abruptly stops.  if you strike the chord and hold the keys down, it will die down slowly.  that’s without the sustain pedals located near the pianist’s feet near the floor at the center of the piano.  i know from playing around with them as a kid that if you press the sustain pedal with your foot, hit the chord, and take your hands away, the sound will stay and die off slowly as if your hands were still on the keys of that chord.  and, also from messing around with the piano as a kid, if you hold down the sustain pedals, or i think there was more than one, and just keep hitting keys, they all keep sounding a long time and it makes a funny loud multi-note crazy cacophonous sound.  that’s because the sustain pedal(s) is(are) doing something mechanical to keep all those little pieces of felt that ususally muffle  the strings from doing their job.  for a 4th grade kid, it’s a glorious sound.  the adults in the other parts of the house are often less impressed with the fine musicality and harmonic elegance of the sound created by banging on the keys with the sustain pedals pushed, but that’s a small price to pay for artistic excellence.

anyway, i’m going to look this up in a moment, but, if there are 3 sustain pedals, that would make sense for what i thought i saw written in one of the sheet music editions and what i’m hearing in the play of the Godovsky version.  If there are 3 pedals, or even 2, but not 1, then it could be because the sustain machinery — the levers and stuff that prevent the little felt pads from doing their work — is probably built around lowest keys, middle keys, and highest keys (if there’s 3 pedals) and around lower vs higher keys (if there’s 2 pedals).  Assuming there’s three, a really low bass chord in the Godowsky version could be played with left hand and with leftmost sustain pedal pressed, causing that chord to keep playing, while the left hand immediately moved on to play all the stuff in the Godowsky version that the right hand played in the original Chopin study.  Ok, let’s look it up …

Ok, not right.  Apparently, there can be 2 or 3 pedals, but only the rightmost is sustain (also called, “damper pedal”, since it moves the felt dampers away from the strings).  And ALL the strings are undamped, not just 1/3 or 1/2.  And the reasons for it are interesting.  One is similar to what I was thinking, to let earlier notes run into later notes when that supports harmony and/or expressiveness.  Apparently, the piano started out with no sustain/damper pedal, then got one that almost nobody used since it was odd, then, in the romantic era, when play was becoming more expressive/emotive/etc, it became considered an essential part of play.  The other reason is very interesting.  By moving all the dampers away from the strings, any of the strings that are resonant with what’s being played can vibrate a little which improves the tone of what’s being played.  Very nice.  Here’s wikipedia:

Wonder what the other pedals are for?  And I wonder how the sustain I think I’m hearing is working in the Godovsky study?  Probably just letting the chord sustain while it is harmonically ok with everything else that’s being played.  Wonder if some of those many little marks on the sheet music are sustain pedal instructions?  Whether the composer gives instructions about use of sustain?  Bet ya’ a buck the answer to that one is yes.

Three Piano Pedals

Ok, the answer to that is, yes.  The above wikipedia article says performers are often given freedom to use sustain by their own judgement, but they also often give instructions with little symbols.

Also, the article says the middle pedal is also related to sustain.  It’s a more selective sustain.  Instead of removing all dampers, it sustains only the sound of the keys that have been pressed.  “The sostenuto pedal is a similar device that sustains only notes which are depressed at the time the pedal is depressed. It is the usual middle of three pedals; but in some upright pianos the middle pedal instead lowers a veil of felt between the hammers and the strings for quiet practicing.”  Not sure which function my grandmom’s piano had.  It was an upright piano.  Ok, and for the Godovsky piece, that’s not going to be on a home or public school upright piano, but on a concert piano, so we can safely assume whoever’s playing Godovsky’s Chopin studies has sostenuto pedal in the middle to press while striking the chords that introduce a lot of measures, and also a sustain/damper pedal on the right to use sometimes or all the time per their judgement.

But the article doesn’t say what the left pedal usually was/is.

Looking for the answer.  As usual, found something else.  Again, for anyone new to this and interested in making a start, the sheet music is divided into those two “clefs,”  G-clef (I was just reminded that’s also called a “treble clef”, treble as in higher) and F-clef (also reminded that’s also called the “bass clef”, bass as in our ususal understanding of low notes).  One thing new to me is the concept of the “grand staff” which turns out to be the formal technical name for what I called earlier “the two clefs hooked together”.  It’s better if you ask the experienced female concert piano artists for all the inevitable “grand staff” jokes, but, for my part, I’m very happy to provide the associated Wikipedia article:

What brought that up … um … what raised that issue … oh, man … what led me to that “grand staff” link was that the article on “sustain pedal” said composers provide sustain pedal instructions under the grand staff on the sheet music.  What?  Tell you just one what?  Oh.  Sorry.  It’s really best if you ask Jung or Olga or Valentina for those.  I’m sure they’ve heard — and told — them all. ♥

Ok, there they are.  The article on sustain pedal says modern music uses one kind of mark for instructions to apply and release sustain pedal and older music uses the ones we’re seeing in both the original Chopin and Godovsky sheet music — under the, well, under the pianist’s grand staff.   Ahem.   Well, moving on … The “apply sustain pedal” symbol is a little calligraphic-like cluster that sort of looks like it says — L, e ,d — like initials for light-emitting diode.  And the old-style symbol for “release sustain/damper pedal” is that asterisk/star symbol.  Notice in the Chopin sheet music, both “apply” and “remove” symbols are used.  But it’s applied pretty much all the time and is re-applied immediately after it’s removed anyway.  In the Godovsky sheet music, where the effect they want is the same, he uses another way of writing it.  Godovsky just writes the “apply sustain” character repeatedly.  Obviously, to apply it, you have to unapply it at least briefly, so it’s actually a better way to write it if all you want is a momentary damping of the previous chord and measure’s activity prior to striking and sustaining the new chord.  Cool!

And, finally, the third pedal, the one on the left, is the “soft pedal” that, as its name implies, softens the sound of the key striking the strings.  In upright pianos, it reduces hammer travel distance, therefore striking speed, and therefore volume.  In grand pianos, it causes volume and tone changes since it shifts the hammer to the side so the hammer hits two instead of three strings, hits them in a different way/angle, and hits them with a different part of the felt hammer.

It’s been fun fussing over all these details so far, so why not go on to yet another detail?  We don’t know for sure if the performers of the Chopin and Godovsky studies are using the middle (selective sustain) or right (all-sustain) pedal.  Doesn’t not knowing that upset you?  It does me.  : )  Right.  Yeah.  I know.  Right.  I know, right?  Ok, anyway … let’s check the articles for middle and left/soft pedal and see if they make any comment about composer instructions on sheet music.

Ask and we might receive:

Wikipedia regarding the soft pedal:  “The use of the soft pedal is generally notated with the words una corda or due corde (Italian for one or two strings) to show when the pedal should begin being used, and tre corde ortutte le corde (meaning “three strings” or “all the strings”) for when it should be released. There is discretion for the performer in its use, however, and it can be used when there is no notation when the performer believes its timbre or quietness is called for by the piece.”

on the middle pedal (sostenuto) Wikipedia page:  “On a modern grand piano with three pedals, the middle pedal is usually a sostenuto pedal. It sustains only those notes which are depressed at the same time that the pedal is depressed, allowing future notes played to be unaffected. It is commonly abbreviated “S.P.”, “Sost. Ped.” or “ThP.” (from the German equivalent “Tonhalte-Pedal”).”  I don’t see any of those symbols on the first 6 bars of either the Chopin or Godovsky sheet music.

That probably means we can conclude that Chopin and Godovsky are both instructing performers to use the sustain/damper pedal throughout most of the pieces to create the sustain we’re hearing. The only thing that makes me still say, “probably,” is I’m just wondering if having sustain on all strings for the initial drone chord and the rest of the notes of the measure allows for clarity of the subsequent notes. On the other hand, that’s what got me going into this in the first place, that I could hear that something was different in the left hand low notes, but then couldn’t clearly hear the note sequences being played.  Even with the symbols we’re seeing on the sheet music, I could still imagine that maybe sostenuto (selective sustain) might not have been standardized and given standard notation and frequent use, so that the performer could choose … well, if they didn’t have it back then, they couldn’t use it back then … but performers today, using modern grand pianos and reading the old sheet music, could conceivably choose either the middle/sostenuto selective sustain or the right/all-sustain/remove-all-dampers pedal when following the sustain instructions in the sheet music.  I don’t play, and I’m no expert, but I think I would use the sostenuto on the chord so the clarity of the few bass notes on the Chopin version and the many left and right hand flourishes came through more clearly.  The tradeoff would be the overall tone of having all-sustain on throughout the full measure.  I would have to try it both ways to see whether the greater mixing of all-sustain or greater note clarity of sustenuto were best.

“On some upright pianos, the middle pedal sustains all notes in the bass register, but this is not a true sostenuto pedal. On other uprights, the middle pedal is a practice pedal (with a locking option) which makes the sound extremely quiet beyond the standard soft pedal. This is often achieved by dropping a felt cloth between the hammers and the strings when the practice pedal is depressed.”

“Note that the sostenuto pedal should not be confused with the much more commonly used sustain pedal, which undamps all the strings on the piano.”

I think I can see why grand pianos have sostenuto function (selective sustain, only sustaining those notes struck when the pedal is pressed) vs. all keys or all the bass keys), but less expensive, more common, upright pianos do not.  Think about what would be needed mechanically to do that.  It’s easier to just pull all the dampers away from all keys, or from all of half the keys.  But to detect which … let’s see … how many fingers do i have? … to detect up to 10 keys, in separate locations on the keyboard, are being struck, and have something mechanical happen to prevent only the dampers on those keys and strings to operate — that’s tricky.  I’m not sure how that would be done, though it’s obviously been worked out somehow.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the detection of which keys during pedal press were, on more modern models, were done with electronics.  Not talking about making the sound electronically, although that’s one a lot lately too these days anyway … just talking about the detection of which keys and part of the control system for the string dampers.

New detail to fuss over.  We know and have seen the old-style characters composers used to give performers instructions on pressing and releasing the sustain/damper pedal.  But what do the instructions look like on modern, well, grand staffs?  I have to admit I’m very interested in pretty much any issue effecting how grand staffs are handled these days.  ‹{͡๏_͡๏ ̃̾}›

Well, here’s the answer in the original right pedal Wiki page:  “. The most common symbol for this is a horizontal line below the grand staff, which lifts up and down with the pedal.”  Wouldn’t you like to see this symbol in action under a real modern grand staff?  Me too.  Let’s see.  There’s a lot of free sheet music available online these days.  What modern music would have sustain pedal marks.  Anything romantic era and beyond would probably use sustain, but would need to have something written down and published later.  I first thought the Rach-Bach transcriptions of 1720 violin to 1930s piano would be good, except baroque music didn’t use sustain much or at all.  Ah, here’s one.  I’ve been teasing the lovely and brilliant Jung Lin about not using the sustain pedal enough on the opening notes of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 2, so maybe we should check the sheet music to see if Brother Franz had left any sustain pedal instructions for Sister Lin.

Promising Google hit to wikipedia page:  “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project.”  Only thing is, we don’t want the orchestra score … what?  tell you what?  jokes about what?  oh.  well, see, i’m really sorry, but it’s really best if you consult Jung or Olga or Valentina for really more expert and authoritative information about that … enjoy … anyway, i think the term, “score”, means the “sheet music for an orchestra or other group of instruments” vs. for one instrument, but I’m not sure … Since we’re all becoming adept at reading sheet music, how hard can reading scores be?  and the international music score library project sounds like a good place to bookmark.  let’s see if we can find Liszt’s sustain pedal advice for Jung Lin there …

Promsing page.  Had audio files too.  Not just good for scoring … um, scores:,_S.244/2_(Liszt,_Franz)

Wow, the International Music Score Library Project is amazing!  Audio, piano scores, and orchestra scores.  So one point is, they’re all called, “scores”, even if for one instrument.  Another point is:  We’re looking for a piano transcription of the orchestral work and there are several full public domain piano scores.  A third point is:  scrolling down to the orchestral score, it’s organized like I guess it would have to be, into basoon score, clarinet score, violin score, and all the rest.  Very very cool.

So now we need to pick a piano transcription score to see what love notes Franz Liszt left in 1834 for the lovely Jung Lin in 2010.

Let’s try the one at the top of the list, a 23 or so Meg pdf file.  … la dee dah (ie, loads slowly) … but it’s very cool … here’s the first several bars …

Franz Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 (1834)

It DOES have love notes from Franz Liszt to Jung Lin about the pedal!  But, wait … it says, “ped” and has a little right-arrow greater-than symbol.  I don’t think we know how to read that.  I thought we were supposed to see horizontal lines moving up and down?  No wonder Jung Lin got the sustain pedal work wrong on her otherwise fabulous performance of Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 at the 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival with David Dubal!  The score for the piano transcription doesn’t use either the old-style LED/* or the new style lines format.  We need to keep helping Jung Lin by investigating how these symbols work.

Looking at the score again … you know what?  I think maybe the greater-than little triangle probably isn’t part of the pedal instruction.  Or not.  Not sure.  It might be a short version of all those other longer thinner sideways angle things on this and other sheet music.  Maybe just the “ped.” is the sustain instruction.  Hold on, Ms Lin, we’ll get this worked out for you!  Let’s look at the next few bars:

A few more bars - Hungarian Rhapsody No 2

A few more bars – Hungarian Rhapsody No 2

The first thing I notice is that, in the first image, the “Ped.” note is on/below the lower bass-clef F-clef (for the left hand) and, on the second image, the “Ped.” note is below the upper treble-clef G-clef (for the right hand).  If “Ped.” is about the sustain pedal, it can be on either clef since it will apply to all strings anyway.  I guess the composer writes it on the clef that most easily shows timing.  On the other hand, our earlier reading told us to expect the symbols under the “grand staff” which would be under the lower bass clef as in the first image.  Maybe the experts are more flexible and I’m being more picky because I’m new and don’t understand well yet and am therefore very literal about everything.  :”_) .

I wonder what those long arrowheads are that show up under the clefs?  I’m tempted to guess they’re build and unbuild volume.  How else would they signal that?  Like in that part where Jung Lin builds and unbuilds and builds and unbuilds in that great tease section of HR2.  I bet, if we could find that section, those long arrowheads would show the building and unbuilding.  On the other hand, there are a few here on single notes.  How do you build or unbuild a single note?  Answer may be the pedal.  All the one-note long arrowheads that I see are pointing right, for unbuild.  Better words for build and unbuild might be augment and diminish, or build and diminish.  Anyway, all the single-note arrowheads are in the direction of diminish.  Which could be one way for Franz Liszt to say, “Take your foot back off of the pedal, please, Ms Lin.”  If so, Jung was doing what Liszt was saying when she was truncating those dramatic opening notes in the Rhapsody.  If you’re following this, HR2 is the first video in the playlist.  I’m going to have another listen to Jung getting started now before I go further.  In fact, and this is fun, I’m going to listen while reading the score, the sheet music, for those opening several bars/measures.  Great.

I might be wrong about bugging Jung Lin about the use of sustain in the opening bars.  For one thing, she might be doing it.  It might be the audio.  As I’m watching her, I think she may be letting the notes resonate and play.  Also, this is a piano transcription of an orchestral piece.  By definition, it does the best of capturing the elements of the orchestral performance on a single, albeit very expressive, instrument — the piano.  Especially expressive since it’s a grand piano with Jung Lin playing.

Ok, I’ve listened to the first minute again several times, more carefully than previous times.  I’m wrong that there’s a lot of places where sustained notes would feel more natural but weren’t used.  I’m pretty sure I’m right about a single moment where I think sustain was missed and I think, since the earlier listenings were less careful, that one sound event, heard several times (since I love what Jung Lin does with the rhapsody), flowed over in my mind to being most of the dramatic low notes in the rhapsody’s opening.  I have a trim of it in which the moment I’m talking about is at about ..

I’m listening to the trim to try to locate that moment that I think demos the role of sustain … and instead I’m being captivated by how beautifully expressive Jung Lin’s interpretation of the transition from the initial less than a minute of staccato dramatic play becomes gorgeous slow funeral march like play … wow …

Ok, I’m hearing it.  I’m hearing more use of sustain than I remembered, but also at about 34 seconds (in my trim, which doesn’t have the little advertisement at the beginning) and 2-3 times in the 10 seconds before that … just little places that I wouldn’t even notice in someone else’s play, but, Jung Lin’s work is so seamless fluid, so much DeBussy-like in that you just don’t notice anything that makes you wonder, even a little bit, “is that exactly right?” … whew, but before that 10 seconds is magic, during the 10 is excellent, and, by the time she’s at about a minute into it, I’m headed toward tears … not getting to tears, but having feelings in that direction from the touching way the sound and visual — not sure how much each contributes — become communicated emotion … really nice.

Listened to it again as putting the trim into a little movie about “Piano Transcriptions.”  Couldn’t hear the sustain gap this time.  But I was rushing around from program to program, screen to screen, to get things organized for upload.  It puts some orchestra version back-to-back with a small fair use slice of the Jung Lin Aspen Institute piano version.

Here’s the upload:

I think the note I’m enjoying fussing over — as a way to work with the sound of the music along with the score/sheetMusic … and as a way to explore the issue of the role of sustain and the way of notating scores for it … and as a way to have a reason to listen carefully again to HR2, and with Jung Lin playing it … — is that first note in measure 8.  Now that I have the sheet music, I can see what Jung is doing with both the right and left hands on the treble and bass clefs.  All those little notes of melody on the treble clef answered by the thundering bass line.

yes, it’s that 3-note treble-clef chord in the eighth measure that truncates too quickly.  for my ear.  who knows what others might say.  but if that right-hand chord were sustained while the left-hand phrase starts, it would, in my opinion, be better.

Question now is what do Eddie Trunk, Don Jamieson, Jim Florentine, Carrie Keagan, Jung Lin, Olga Kern, and Valentina Lisitsa think?  Ok, as Don Jamieson would say, “You guys know what time it is.”  The Throwdown.  It’s the Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 sustain pedal throwdown — pedal the right-hand chord in the eighth measure or no?

Then also, to a lesser extent, the two-note chord on the left hand in measure 7.  It’s marked “Ped.”, but I think doesn’t get quite enough.

There’s a bit of Italian between the clefs in the eighth measure, “piu ritenuto.”  Oh boy.  You know what that is?  That’s a love note, in Italian, from Mr. Lizst.  “A little” … one source says, “ritenuto” means “hold back.”  google translate says “piu” means “more” (not, as I thought, like french un peu, a little) and “ritenuto” means “considered” … so “more considered” which is like “hold back” … so it’s not a sustain pedal instruction … it makes sense because Liszt is teasing, almost building, almost taking off, and then not in many places in the work …

One more little “i” to dot and “t” to cross:  Googling on “Ped.” gives this confirmation that it’s pedal.  (It was worth checking since “piu” in Italian turned out not to be cognate with “peu” in French.)  But here’s the hit:  “Ped. – Press the right sustaining pedal (piano), until a * is reached.”

Ok, I leave it there.  As unbelievable as it may sound (and seem to me), I think Jung Lin’s HR2, though magically gorgeous, has two imperfections.  One is her fault.  One is Liszt’s fault.  The insufficient sustain pedal on the left-hand chord in measure 7 is Jung’s fault.  Liszt sent her his instructions for that.  But the lack of sustain on the right-hand chord in measure 8 is Liszt’s fault.  He should have written a “Ped.” under that chord and he didn’t.

Hm … I’m assuming Liszt made the piano transcription.  It’s his work for orchestra and he, like Chopin and Rachmaninoff, was a piano-centric kind of guy.

Finis.  Pour maintenant.♥

– ტ⌋ტ – ♥.•*¨*•.♥

#♥ #♫



We never saw the little lines that are supposed to be the modern way of writing sustain pedal instructions.  Let’s try the Bach-Rach piano transcriptions of works for solo violin.  When I thought of that before, I waved off on it because baroque era didn’t use (or maybe even have) sustain pedals on piano.  But that wasn’t right.  We’re not dealing with piano to piano, but with violin to piano.  If Rachmaninoff in 1934 had wanted to capture as much of the full expression of Bach’s 1720 violins on the piano, he surely must have been using all the tools of the modern piano, right?  Sure.

Ok, we’ll need the score for one of the three Bach Solo Violin Partita movements that Rachmaninoff transcribed, for one of the three Bach-Rach piano transcriptions.  We had good luck with the International Music Score Library Project before.  Let’s try it again.

The next link shows that a lot of people transcribed some of 6 Bach’s Violin Sonatas and Partitas to other instruments, not just Rachmaninoff for piano.,_BWV_1001-1006_(Bach,_Johann_Sebastian)

the two available rachmaninoff scores – preludio and gavotte:,_BWV_1001-1006_(Bach,_Johann_Sebastian)#For_Piano_solo_.28Rachmaninoff.29

we’ll download this one, the one for preludio.  for one thing, we have Jung Lin performance video for Preludio:

Ok, that loads quickly.  It’s simple black on white vs. some sort of scan of of brownish original like the Hungarian Rhapsody score.  Also, it’s much shorter, of course.

Interesting, but nothing that looks like pedal instructions.  Written by “RSB”? Rachmaninoff, Sergei B?  Must be.  Um, no.  It’s Sergei V.  So what’s RSB?  Rachmaninoff Sergei, and Bach?  Yet another little music industry insider mystery.  The “BMV 1006” is clear and correct.  That’s the right number in the opus numbering system I’ve always seen used for the Bach Violin Sonatas and Partitas that Rachmaninoff drew on for the three Bach-Rach transcriptions.  “Preludio” is also right for one of the three transcribed movements.  That leaves, “Arranged for piano solo by RSB.”  I find that odd.  Why not just spell out the arranger’s name.  For now, I’ll just leave it as it RSB must be some sort of abbreviation for Sergei V Rachmaninoff.  Something odd there, though.  Experimenting around in the imslp system brings rasmus123, a user, for all the RSB stuff.  Not sure what gives here.  Maybe try another source for Rach-Bach score sometime.  Lack of pedal instructions plus this odd RSB thing makes me wonder if we really have a right version of the Rach-Bach score.  You know what else?  None of those long thin arrowheads that are probably build/diminish marks on the “RSB” arrangement.  Also, another RSB in imslp is a Vivaldi work, which the Rachmaninoff works page doesn’t list.  Starting to think RSB is a nice person contributing free transcription arrangements he/she made, but it’s not Rachmaninoff’s instructions.  Here we go again.  : _)

Rach-Bach Piano Transcription for Preludio

But, in the meantime, the great mystery of the nature of the appearance of the modern version of the composer sustain pedal instructions, said to be normally located under the pianist’s grand staff, continues to … well … continues to … continues to … to … persist.

Let’s get out of this loop of trying to look at classical music.  How about Rhapsody in Blue?  That should have modern symbols.

Just has those short “greater-than” symbols.

Might be hitting “diminishing returns” here.  Sometimes, chasing details just keeps providing more high-value information.  But, sometimes, chasing details has the feel of starting to be sort of dull.  The “diminishing returns” idea, for those not familiar with it, is … let me remember this … I guess it’s called, “The [so-called] Law of Diminishing Returns” … it’s the idea that, in many, maybe most, situations, early increments of time, effort, and resources provide high amounts of value returned, ie, high “returns” … and the more time and effort is applied, because, at the beginning, many (not all) situations change and improve quickly, the “return” on the time gets smaller and smaller … in a new knowledge area, going from knowing nothing to knowing anything is often a big change … that might be enough … learning a few more things is also a big change from knowing only one thing, especially if they’re some of the “right” things … aspects of “structure” … or central ideas … or central or representative examples or events or people … in that new knowledge area, that may be enough … depends on whether you’re in “generalist” mode (wanting to know a little about a lot of things, for perspective) … or in some version of “specialist” mode (getting one or another level of deeper into a particular area) … that’s “diminishing returns” in a knowledge area …  another take on “diminishing returns” is in how perfect to try to make something … a great example of this is the “I think I like a speckled ax best” story Ben Franklin told in his Autobiography … the axe that needed grinding … the first few efforts got most of the big pits and scratches out of the metal head of the ax right away … very good progress quickly …  but, from that high-return and low-effort result — from what we’d today call, “getting it into the ballpark” (to see the ballgame vs. into some particular seat)– trying to grind every little speck out of the ax was taking lots and lots and lots of sweat, time, and effort and the specks last remaining specks just weren’t coming out … the punchline in Franklin’s story was the cute, “I think I like a speckled ax best.”  : ) … anyway, another expression of the law of diminishing returns is the “80/20” rule, that one that says one often gets 80% of the possible results from the initial 20% of the efforts … and it then takes the other 80% of the resources to get the remaining 20% of the value … so, if overall productivity is the important thing, vs. quality and perfection being the important thing (different objectives in different situations … i.e., range of validity, as always is important), then it’s best to just apply the 20% of effort, get the 80% of result, and then just move on to applying 20% to the next project … there’s no right answer for every situation … returning to our situation of learning about sustain pedals and score sheets, there was a long LONG period in this blog page where trying to get that little speck of additional information kept seeming to bring high amounts of interesting musicology perspective … which was great … but now i’m not sure … could go either way … i’m now at a familiar point … wondering whether to energetically keep generating and chasing new ideas for resolving the question … or go onto some other thing knowing that, someday, somewhere, the answer to that question that never got answered will just show up when looking for something else … : ) … decisions, decisions … all in the flow of the fun of self-directed learning …

So familiar situation:  Wondering if have “reached diminishing returns”, consider changing focus, but … wellllllll … maybe just trying another angle might just get the answer anyway … : ) … the decision is “persistence, not giving up” vs. “wasting time chasing things that won’t finish or aren’t really all that important or valuable” …

And familiar result:  Changed approach, new idea, for answering question.  Rather than looking for sheet music that might have the horizontal lines (which was not only not wrong before, but also interesting, fun, and provided other unintended benefits), look up sheet music symbols in general.  So persistence in the context of diminishing — but still not zero — natural interest and momentum about the question of modern sustain pedal symbols.

There they are, the pedal marks.  And we haven’t seen them anywhere yet.  Maybe we will some time.


The rest is just taking notes.


Odds and Ends

–  Interesting note about sostenuto pedals at this source: “Sostenuto pedal markings are rarely seen in sheet music, but can be found in the works of Claude DeBussy.”  The page also says use of the sostenuto pedal never really became popular and so notation never really became standardized.  The notation the article shows two notations:  “Sost. ped.” and *, and squared-off hollow half-notes tied together.  Probably part of the reason sostenuto didn’t catch on is it gets a bit tricky to use.  If you really want the notes on one clef to sustain, while notes on other clef are staccato, you have to be sure to play only the notes you want to sustain with the sostenuto pedal on.  Since bass/low notes are often those wanted as sustained, maybe that’s why the middle pedal sometimes is bass notes only (vs. any notes played while pedal depressed).  That makes it easier to sustain the bass notes while not also “catching” high notes in the sustain that aren’t necessarily best sustained.

More odds and ends on sostenuto.   Comments, claims, assertions, etc from various bloggers on  Not much use prior to Schoenberg Opus 11.   then later this same guy said Sch only asked for hand to hold down keys (vs pedal).  He then said first might have been Copland variations, IIRC  <> “Who wouldn’t want to have bass notes sustain while playing tw0-handed staccato in higher registers?”  <> example of use is Rachmaninoff Prelude in C# minor…the last section.  somebody responded that sost pedal helps with prelude, but can play this piece well without it.  somebody else said he doubted sost indicated by rach since prelude written 1893 and few pianos in euro had sos then and also his edition has sost instruction on first but not last page <> same guy who said sost could be useful for rach prelude: “I remember hearing Yuja Wang playing Prokofiev’s 6th sonata, and I think it was the 4rth movement where long notes were being held when she was playing the main motif (three descending thirds) in a very crisp staccato.” <> Not all manufacturers put sostenuto into piano; Liszt bought pianos from one who did to get sostenuto.  <> Hoffman had his sostenuto pedal removed (maybe to prevent mistakenly pressing it?) <> From The Art of Teaching Piano, Denes Agay, ed., Yorktown pub. 2004 edition, pp. 116-121; ISBN 978-0-8256-8111-0: “The most ignored pedaling tool is the middle, sostenuto, pedal. Regretably, this pedal usually functions imperfectly or not at all on upright instruments, and even on many grands may be poorly adjusted. The sostenuto pedal was first exhibited by the French firm of Boisselot and Sons of Marseilles at the Paris exposition of 1844, patented in both France and the United States in 1874, but was not widely incorporated by European manufacturers. In the United States, however, Steinway enthusiastically adopted it, and other companies soon followed his example…”<> Somebody put it in piano.  Later Steinway patented it.  <> invented in 1840s in France and perfected and patented 15-20 years later by Steinway <> it can be difficult to keep adjusted so it undamps the right notes.  one pianist says he makes a point to ask concert hall management to make sure the piano technician checks/aligns the sostenuto.  another pianist says most times, when he tries to use it, it doesn’t work properly and he thinks piano techs only check it when specifically asked.  <> one guy said composer Grainger was “obsessed” with use of sostenuto and clearly marked his works <> a tool for showing the textures of pieces better <> not available on most upright/vertical pianos or on all grand pianos (some don’t have, some do all bass, some actual selective strings), so writing with sostenuto is writing for smaller group of performers/instruments.  when can just write for sustain pedal which all of the pianos and pianists have.

That explains why sostenuto use hasn’t been prevalent.  And why it might never be.  Sostenuoto — in the sense of selective (vs. all) sustain — is tricky to write for, tricky to use during performance, is not available (or not available in the same way) even on all grand pianos, is not easy to maintain mechanically to make sure it works correctly when it’s there, and, oh by the way, its effect can often be approximated (albeit with some degree of staccato-muting effects) via the full-sustain/right pedal.

Bottom line:  Use of the sostenuto pedal is the kind of thing that will become known as a pretty narrow and maybe a little exotic specialty accomplishment on the piano.  It will combine composers who know how and are motivated to write effectively to get sostenuto’s benefits, performers who can handle it, piano makers to provide it, piano technicians to keep it adjusted, and piano concert hall managers who will pay piano technicians to keep the sostenuto systems adjusted.  It’s the kind of thing that becomes a subject of discussion among the various experts — composers, conductors, pianists, manufacturers, professors, and critics.  For example, discussions like this will be overheard:

“Oh, you know what?  I just read in Classical Music Magazine that Jung Lin, Olga Kern, and Valentina Lisitsa have been on tour playing their transcription of DeBussy’s Afternoon of a Faun and are all getting rave reviews.

On tour?  Together?  Three pianists?

“No.  Three separate tours.  Mostly separate.”

Mostly separate.  Ok.  Whatever that means.  And you said, “transcription.”  As in one?  Singular?  One transcription by the three of them for Faun?

“Yes.  The critic who wrote the article said Lin, Kern, and Lisitsa have been collaborating on all sorts of composition projects.  In fact, on their current tours, they are also playing the Lin/Kern/Lisitsa Further Studies of the Godovsky Studies of Chopin’s Etudes.”

Get out of here.

“I’m not kidding.”

So we now have the Chopin Etudes, the Godovsky Studies, and the Lin/Kern/Lisitsa Further Studies?


And I suppose these Further Studies make huge improvements on the play and sound of Godovsky’s studies?  Just like Godovsky’s Studies did with Chopin’s Etudes?



“Yep.  Cool, huh?”

Yeah, but …

“They also made a new piano transcription of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 that, apparently, knocking people’s socks off wherever and whenever any one of them plays.  Apparently, they’re all playing killer openings for the rhapsody.  You really ought to subscribe to this magazine, because …”

Ok ok, but how did they …

“And did I tell you that Jung, Olga, and Valentina — as part of their separate, but coordinated tours — have been simul-broadcasting a three-pianos version of Canto Ostinato from their three different places in the world?”

Yeah.  I mean, no.  No, you hadn’t told me that, but, going back to the Godovsky Chopin studies.  You’re saying that they now play, for example, the “Waterfall” study and …

“Yes, the “Waterfall” Further Study is one of the things they’re getting a lot of press buzz about.  Their new version  has the Godovsky left-hand sound — that famously is the Chopin version right hand sound — come through really clearly because of the improvements the ladies made to Godovsky’s and Chopin’s arrangements.”

Ok, but …

“We should get tickets to one of these shows.”

Yeah, but … how do they do that?

“Do what?”

Have the beautiful left hand version come through so much more clearly?  I’ve listened to many performances of Godovsky’s 1st Study of Chopin’s 1st Etude and the re-written left hand never came through as clearly as the same pattern did when it was played in the higher keys.

“Right.  That’s the point the writer was making in the magazine article.  He said the ladies have all insisted that all the concert halls on all of their tours have grand pianos with sostenuto systems that are correctly-adjusted.”

What kind of systems?


Sounds like ice cream.


Quasimodo’s twin brother?



“Might be pasta, but it’s also the middle pedal on most grand pianos.  The problem is, according the article, it’s not been used much.  But these ladies have been wow-ing the critics and crowds by, essentially, creating a new standard in piano maintenance,  and then — knowing they’ll be arriving to venues and pianos with reliable sostenuto systems — rewriting and then playing piano pieces to make effective use of it.”



That’s great.


Sostenuto is doing all that?


So what’s sostenuto?

“Selective sustain.”

That’s what I thought.  Just sustain the keys being played when the pedal’s down, right?

“Right.  As opposed to the right pedal that sustains everything.  If you already knew what it is, why did you ask me?”

To see if you knew.

“I know what the piano pedals are for.”

That’s fine.  So do I.  So they rewrote Godovsky and Chopin from sustain to sostenuto … and, let’s see … and modified both the left-hand and right-hand parts to make sure the pedal only captures the notes to sustain during the pedal press …

“Right, but that wasn’t a huge change.  The Godovsky and Chopin studies were working reasonably well already with sustain blending a lot of notes during the right pedal cycles.  What I mean is, the clarity of the un-pedalled notes is greatly-improved with brief beginning-of-measure sostenuto pulses vs measure-long sustain-pedal holds, but, due to the holds being there before, there weren’t any wrong notes to be included in the sostenuto effect.”

The Sostenuto Effect.  That’s a catchy title.  Are they also writing a novel and making a movie.

“I think so.  Probably, yes.”


“Do you want this subscription card for the magazine?”

No.  I’ll just keep reading yours.  Gimme that.


: )  Yeah.  Right.  I know.  You don’t even have to say it.  : )  Ridiculous.  But fun.

So that’s everything we need to know — and more! — about the piano’s sostenuto (middle) pedal. “)


Note 3

Butterfly and Black Key vs. Badinage

We were able to puzzle out –without reading it anywhere (in fact, we’re so sure of what we found, we never tried to read it anywhere, though there’s no doubt much written about it) — what the major difference was between Chopin’s “Waterfall” Etude (Opus 10 No 1) and Godovsky’s First Study based on Chopin’s Etude.

So, following our lovely and talented tour guide, Jung Lin, and her play selections again, we go back to the “music” page of her website and are reminded that she felt it was interesting to learn and play Chopin’s “Butterfly” Etude (Opus 25 No 9), Chopin’s “Black Key” Etude (Opus 10 No 5), and Godovsky’s “Badinage” Study (based on both Chopin’s Butterfly and Black Key) all together in one of her performances.

With “Waterfall”, we were able to notice that the Godovsky study replaced the very simple left hand in the original Chopin Etude with the famously-challenging right hand of the original Chopin Etude and then added some additional showy new right hand.  The result was the piece was challenging for both hands and was a bit of a clever stroke of innovation, teaching, technique, and self-promotion.

So I’m wondering if we can determine from listening and looking at the sheet music what approach Godovsky might have taken in “combining” two other Chopin Etudes into one of his own Studies. When I first heard Jung Lin playing all three, I thought he just strung them together, one following the other.  But that’s not the case.  The lengths of the studies seem to vary somewhat by performance, but the ones I’m looking at right now have a Badinage at 1:34, Butterfly at :50 and another at 1:18, and a Black Key at 1:50 and another at 1:54.  So they are not just strung together end-to-end.  And it’s not just a fresh new study or else Godovsky wouldn’t have made the point that they are based on Butterfly and Black Key.  So there’s a merger, a combining, of the two original Chopin Etudes somehow.  That’s the question.  What’s the somehow.  With the Godovsky ego that’s coming through from his actions so far and some of the comments I’ve read about him, it should be possible to recognize parts of Opus 10-5 and Opus 25-9 in Badinage.

On the playlist for this page (The wonderful Jung Lin ♥ ♪ ♪ ♥), there are videos from the marvelous YouTube uploader, tomekkobialka, that combine a nice audio performance of the piece with well-timed sheet music images for all three of these pieces.  Actually, the Godovsky-Chopin piece is from rvn10rvn17.  The point is, they are all three there on the playlist.

All three works are written in 2/4 (“two four time”).  The bottom number, 4, tells us a quater note is 1 beat.  The 2 tells us there are two beats per measure.  (Right.  Good observation and question.  The answer is, I don’t know why there were 6 beats per measure for that 3/4 time signature we were working with in the Chopin and Godovsky “Waterfall” music.)  Anyway, two beats per measure.

I started out trying to recognize in Badinage — by sound or by sheet music appearance — characteristic phrases from Butterfly and Black Key.  With Waterfall, I noticed — on the sheet music — the similarity of the old right hand to the new left hand right away in the first dozen measures.  But that was maybe a little easier to see since (1) the old left hand was SO simple, it was clear it was being replaced with something, raising the question what, and — voila — it was right there staring at me.  And, when I realized what a professional coup that was at the time, I knew I was seeing it right.

So far, with Badinage, I can sort of hear some of the characteristics, but can’t quite separate them out yet.

Visually, I can see a lot of rippling triplets — there’s a lot of those in all three pieces — but still a bit of a blizzard so far.

Tempting to work with is the great fast both-hands descending chords phrase in the next-to-last measure of Black Key.  I think I’m hearing a descent in Badinage, but a little less distinct.  And that part visually looks like it has simul ascend/descend instead of descending both hands.

Also thinking of looking for the characteristic … I’m humming it, but I’m not sure how to to write it onomatopaeically (however that lovely word is spelled) … I’m talking about the very distinct repeating part that Black Key’s left hand starts with and, after a slow part, returns to … bih DAN DAN DAN  … bih DAN DAN DAN … in the sheet music it’s … ok, i just looked at the sheet music … it’s just DAN DAN DAN without the little stutter … and it does that right away in measure 1’s left hand to introduce 4 measures of slightly lighter little DAN DAN echoes on the left hand and a lot of Jung Lin-style fluttery right hand … then same thing in measure 5 … DAN DAN DAN again to introduce 4 more measures … then again in measure 9 at the bottom of the first page … then again at the top of page 2, measure 13 same thing … then the DAN DAN DAN stuff goes away for the rest of page 2, all of pages 3 and 4, comes back twice on page 5, and is not heard again for pages 5 and 6.  But the DAN DAN DAN phrase … i think that’s a triplet of eighth notes followed by an eighth note rest before the little echoes start with a non-triplet eighth note without the little dot over it and two DAN DAN echoes … there’s an F written between the clefs on the DAN DAN DAN measure which I think is fortissimo, which means make it strong, and a P in the following measure that I think means pianissimo, or make it softer … which matches what we hear in those sets of 4 measures introduced by the DAN DAN DAN triplet phrase …

Ok, that is an eighth of a beat rest.  The Dan Dan Dan triplet is followed by the sixth character from the left in the image below from wikipedia.  By the way, I’m only using the numbers for the number of beats of rest in the second row under the characters.  I’ve never heard or heard anybody use the names in the first row.  I’d ignore the oddball non-self-defining non-intuitive names and just know the numbers.

Music rests.svg

Overall, at the moment, I’m thinking to test whether the base for Badinage might be Black Key for two reasons.  One is the length of the three pieces.  The other is they both have a bit of a slow-down period between the faster beginnings and ends.  The idea to test at the moment is Black Key as base gets reduced a bit in length, maybe in the slow middle, and Butterfly’s shorter fluttery right hand is what’s going on in Badinage’s right hand.  Haven’t looked at that yet.  Just putting myself in Godovsky’s shoes and thinking — Ok, if I’m going to merge Butterfly and Black Key somehow, how can I do it?  Another view is to wonder, what, when he knew them completely, just jumped out at him as reasons the two should be done together?  He could have combined any other two of Chopin’s 12 plus 12 plus 3, 27 Etudes.  Why these 2?  Godovsky made 53 or 54 studies based on Chopin’s Etudes.  The sheet music indicates Badinage is number 47.  So, pretty far along in finishing [update: that’s not necessarily right.  the numbers like this number 47 don’t necessarily tell anything about the order he wrote the studies in … the studies might be numbered to go along with Chopin’s 1-27 sequence … no reason to be certain yet that he didn’t write the one numbered 47 first], he sees something about Black Key and Butterfly that say to him — these could go together in an interesting way that knowledgeable piano experts and bright students will think is clever.  The work he did with Waterfall was clever.  I’m going in assuming the thought process on each of his Studies is, for some reason, clever, elegant, logical, and maybe stylish and a bit brash.  Could be wrong.  Maybe only the first one — his first of Godovsky’s three studies on the first of chopin’s etudes (waterfall, Opus 10 No 1) was a pretty elegant move.  But maybe not.  Have to leave it there for now.

Finis.  Pour maintenant.

– ტ⌋ტ – ♥.•*¨*•.♥ – ♥.•*¨*•.♥ – ♥.•*¨*•.♥ cL,tm,baker,twig harryC olgaK.vL .. gj ♥

#♥ #♫




Was wondering if the clinky high notes on one of the pieces were really as written or if the notes right above the treble clef were really one or more octaves further to the right of the piano keyboard.  Led to discussion of middle C’s position on the piano and between the clefs, and the next C, next C, and the notes above that.

So it’s useful to get a sense for the range of the keys.  wikipedia has this:  “Almost every modern piano has 36 black keys and 52 white keys for a total of 88 keys (seven octaves plus a minor third, from A0 to C8). Many older pianos only have 85 keys (seven octaves from A0 to A7), while some manufacturers extend the range further in one or both directions.”

Now THAT is cool:  “A0 to C8“.  (I’m easily entertained.)  But, of course, such names for notes and keys exist!  How could there NOT be a precise and efficient way to refer to the various A notes and B notes and C notes up and down the tone scale, piano keyboard, and other instrument playing ranges?

Let’s see how “A0 to C8” works on the piano.

Like this?  A0-C0 A1-C1 A2-C2 A3-C3 A4-C4 A5-C5 A6-C6 A7-C7 A8-C8 … nope.  Too many octaves and keys.  8 octaves plus 3 keys.  Needs to be 7 octaves plus three.

Maybe it’s not A0B0C0 , but A0B0C1 ?  Let’s check out that possibility:

A0C1 A1C2 A2C3 A3C4 A4C5 A5C6 A6C7 A7C8 ……. ok.  this one works.  this one’s right.  7 octaves plus 3 keys (plus a “minor third” pitch interval).

Let’s find out which of the C’s must be the famous “middle C.”  “Middle C” is where piano players put both thumbs — and their belly buttons too — for physical reference, like a “home” position.

Checking if C5 is Middle C.  Ao to G4 is 4 octaves, x 12 keys per chromatic scale octave = 48 keys, plus 1 key to A4, for 49 plus 3 keys to C5 is 52 from 88 = 36.  Not very equal.  51 to left, middle C, 36 to right.  15 more keys on the left.  Probably not Middle C.  Not really in the middle.

Let’s try C4 as “middle C”.  A0 to G3, 3 octaves, times 12 keys per octave is 36, plus 1 key to A3, plus 3 keys to C4, equals 40 keys.  That leaves 48 keys to the right.  39 to left, C4, 48 to the right.  pretty equal.  9 more keys on the right.  if you’re going to have more keys, probably better to have them on the right.

C4 would be easy to remember with a mnemonic.  “I can C 4 miles and miles” or “playing the piano is really dynamite … you start with C4” or … what?  plenty?  ok.  Anyway, I’m pretty sure we’ve shown that C4 is the famous Middle C, but let’s check wikipedia: “Middle C is designated C4 in scientific pitch notation because of the note’s position as the fourth C key on a standard 88-key piano keyboard.”

Standard 88-key Piano Keyboard

Click on Image to see ”A0 to C8“ Names of Notes of Keys on Standard 88-key Piano Keyboard

Fine.  Next, we can notice on that image, or just count down from any G-clef, or just count up from any F-clef, to see that middle C — C4 — is the C in the short line between the treble and bass clefs.  That makes the next higher C, the one on the 3rd space up in the treble clef — C5.  Which makes the next higher C — C6 — the 2nd short line above the treble clef.

What got me wondering about this was the tiny high clinky notes heard played in Chopin’s Black Key Étude Opus 10 No 5 where the top note is the E above what we’ve just learned is C6.  The C6 shows as two short lines above the treble clef and that high E shows as three short lines above the treble clef in the Black Key Étude‘s video sheet music.  That recurring high E note is in the third of the four octaves to the right of Middle C.  Amazing that the note sounds that high and there’s still an octave and a half of higher keys toward the right on the standard 88-key piano.

Butterfly goes even higher.  To the space above the fifth line above the treble clef.  That will be … have to count it up … F5 (top line of treble clef), A5 (1st line above), C6 (2nd line), E6 (3rd line above), G6 (4th line), B6 (5th line) , C7 … so, if I’m figuring this correctly, even that clinky little high note is still a full octave from being the highest key on the standard piano.

Badinage has high keys above the treble clef too.  At least to B6, the note on the 5th short line above the treble clef.

That 6 in B6. stands for the 6th octave on the piano.  B6 is the B note in the 6th octave on the piano.  It’s also the B note in the 3rd octave to the right of Middle C.

Now here’s a trick question.  Pop quiz.  Which is the higher-pitch note, C6 or B6?  Answer:  B6.  Each numbered octave on the piano starts on C, so the notes of the two (rightmost) octaves on the piano keyboard ascend in pitch as follows:  C6 D6 E6 F6 G6 A6 B6 C7 D7 E7 F7 G7 A7 B7 C8.  I bolded and italicized C6 through C7 because Butterfly, Black Key, and Badinage are working a lot of their high-end fluttering in that high note range.  But notice Chopin and Godovsky have 8 more keys they could have used.  I wonder why they didn’t, especially since Chopin’s Etudes and Godovsky’s Studies of Chopin’s Etudes are exercises designed to extend the range over which a performer can perform.  Maybe those really high keys are not considered loud or musical enough.  That C7 that sounds a few times in Butterfly is pretty clinky already.  Update:  Another thought supporting that the rightmost keys might be considered not playable is, in the wiki article that discussed number of keys on a piano, it says the pianos with more than 88 keys, up to like 102, add keys that are mostly not actually played, but that come into play when the sustain pedal is pressed for resonant “sympathetic” vibration to improve tone.  That may explain why the two piano teachers, Chopin and Godovsky, don’t seem to be writing like D7 through C8 into their scores.

When it comes to main melody coming through all the sound Godovsky jams and stuffs into Badinage, I think it’s similar, at least in the beginning, to Butterfly.  It’s a different texture somehow, and maybe a different speed, but roughly the same main single not melody line to hum along with.

So far, I think Badinage is often too busy and often too chaotic.  Whatever else turns out to strike me as clever and effective about this study, I think I’ll be concluding Godovsky was trying too hard to make narrow superman playing points and sacrificed — or, oh my goodness — maybe didn’t have the ear for recognizing and creating consistently elegant beautiful sound.  His Butterfly-like basic melody is nice, but there are times when the two hands are both rumbling like two clouds passing over one another — probably with sustain pedal pressed a long time that gives that sort of indistinct rumbling sound.  Raff had some of that in his Ode to Spring concerto.  This may be something piano experts consider excellent technique.  I may learn to view and hear it that it way, but, so far, I’m viewing at it as poor writing, poor composition, writing that only fellow piano experts can agree to really like while we amateurs who haven’t been persuaded to walk away from our natural direct experience and reactions are wondering why these big name composers are putting unbeautiful sections into otherwise very interesting works.  If somewhat indistinct competing rumbling sounds is supposed to be just a sound with emotive effects, ok. But if it’s supposed to have some effect and also appeal to the beauty sensors and the intelligence and craft sensors, some of the parts of Badinage aren’t really cutting it.

Another impression, possibility.  Yes, the basic Butterfly Etude melody line is coming through in Badinage, but maybe in a lower register from the left hand?  At least for part of it, then the right takes over the primary melody line?

Butterfly and Badinage are both written whatever key has 6 flatted notes.  (Getting organized to see if the first several measures of the Butterfly right hand are transposed down an octave or two to the left hand of Badinage.  Pretty sure I’m hearing same basic melody line in both, but possibly in a higher octave in Butterfly.  Ok, the Black Key Etude’s written in the key with 6 flats too.  Both in 2/4 time and in the key with 6 flats.  That, by the way, could be the reason — or at least one of the reasons — he chose to do a single study on both.

On that subject, the “Aeolian Harp” and “Bees” Etudes (Opus 25 No 1 and 2) are written in 4/4 time and in a key with 4 flats.  “The Horsemen” (Opus 25 No 3) is written in 3/4 time and in a key with 1 flat.  “Wrong Note” Etude (Opus 25 No 5) is in 3/4 with one sharp.  “Thirds” (25-6) is 4/4 and a key with 5 sharps — and is very cool.  “Cello” (25-7) is 4/4, slow play, 5 min long,  and the key with 4 sharps (kind of sounds “minor key” … i don’t get how that works really, to have a relative major and its relative minor key have same scale notes, same sharps or flats, playing same notes, but get the different major and minor kind of sound).  “Sixths” (Opus 25 No 8)” is also very cool with its unbelievable long fast ascending chord sequence at the end.  Also the several  stylish dramatic strokes a few times in the left hand.  And in the middle, a less, but still really great, ascending and descending phrase.  Only 59 seconds and simply fabulous!  It’s written in 4/4 and in the key with 5 flats.  “Octave” (25-10) very cool dramatic engaging fast first section with 4/4 and 2 sharps and changes to a very lovely slower section in 3/4 and 5 sharps … and wow, back to first key, time, and emotion for gorgeous close.  What a wonderful piece.

Whew.  I’m seeing what the references mean when they say these Etudes were both challenging and lovely works of art.

And I’m also deepening somewhat the impression I’ve been starting to get on my own that, while Godovsky’s Studies may have made Chopin’s Etudes more technically demanding, he may have fixed some things that weren’t broken and, quite the contrary from raising the bar, may have just cluttered up some great well-balanced technical and artistic work with too much blustery showing off of mere technical skill.  There’s plenty of speed, drama, emotion, and virtuosity already in the original Etudes — maybe just the right amount — so the jury’s still out with me on whether Godovsky’s versions are really masterful advances and improvements or a series of bold, ambitious, and clever  — but still second-rate — over-reaching self-promoting sideshows.

[Update dec 31, afternoon :  First the usual caution sign:  You should skip this bracketed next section unless you’re both (1) very interested in nailing down the details of the nature of Godovsky’s intentions vs. his actual achievements with his Studies of Chopin’s Etudes and (2) very interested in an example of the thought processes that can arise when making such an assessment.

It occurred to me overnight that maybe I’m being a little too harsh here.  I’m wanting here to rethink it, modify the tone to a more up-to-date expression of my view, find out what my view should be given the data so far, and also see how and why I got to a skeptical view after having had such a grandly positive view and expectation about what further study of G’s Studies of C’s Etudes was likely to reveal.

As one adjustment, there’s no reason to doubt or wonder if Godovsky had a fine ear and sense for the artistic in compositions (vs. his clear mechanical technical skill and his clear ego, ambition, and sense of place in piano history) even if already, very early in our study of C’s 27 Etudes and G’s 54 Studies of those Etudes, the second of the two Studies we’ve looked at a bit (“Badinage”) seems to crowd too much into Chopin’s “Butterfly” and “Black Key” Etudes and seems, at least in some parts — and master class composers and performers don’t have most parts work and a few parts not work — to muck up the balance, elegance, masterfulness, and artistry of the originals.

It’s too early to know if, in the other 52 studies, he was able to elevate either training/performance difficulty/challenge, or artistic expressiveness, or both.  Also, his clear ambition, boldness, and sense for the sweeping master stroke within the history of the classical piano profession (vs. technical piano virtuosity or compositional artistry) — not a bad thing; in fact, it’s often part of the being great thing — don’t make him overly self-promoting (self-promoting’s not a bad thing either, done right) or second-rate or a sideshow.  In other words, even if none of his Studies elevates the artistry, while most elevate the value for training and learning, and while some, maybe even many, lose artistic balance due to overloading for training, then he can’t be called second-rate or overly anything.

This is getting a little long … just letting verbalizing bring out what’s intrinsically true … What’s happening here is my guessing at what the intention was for Godovsky Studies and what the accomplishment turned out to be has been changing …

it began as … first, not having a clue or a guess at how G’s Studies compared with C’s originals … 2nd state was reading somewhere that the G studies increased the technical demands on performers further beyond C’s original etudes.  that seemed maybe a good and interesting accomplishment … 3rd was reading that G told somebody that no one except he and Liszt had contributed to piano play since Chopin.  that seemed interesting, if true, and, since it was quoted, maybe it was true … fourth was seeing for myself that the G 1st “waterfall” study had replaced the simple original “waterfall” etude‘s left hand and had added another fancy right hand both to be played at the same time.  that seemed a very clever and strong move, but i didn’t stay with opus 10 no 1 “waterfall” and it’s 1st G Study long enough to assess relative beauty/artistry, but i’m realizing now i implicitly assumed artistry/beauty had been either maintained or improved … still haven’t done that and need to … at that point, i was very impressed with G and implicitly assuming both (a) that he intended to outperform, or at least build on, Chopin on both technical demands/technique and artistry and (b) that he had done that and that’s what i would be finding in butterfly/blackKey/badinage and in the other 52 studies … so at that point — and it’s not G’s fault — I had an assumption about his intention and an assumption about what he had accomplished … so when i next found (in “Badinage” what seemed to me to be clutter, over-busy, maybe over-sustain over-blending of pretty definitely colliding two-hand play, over emphasis on speed and too many notes and on the technical at expense of artistry, my attitude shifted to not liking G’s work since I assumed he was selling over-technicality over elegant balance of technique and beautiful aesthetic effect … in every area of life, not enough technique is bad, but so is too much technique … it’s an essential aspect of the art of anything in life … and it’s always awful when the narrowist (brand new term) overly-technical players win the politics/power/perception game at the expense of those who deliver and are the better balance of the technical and the purpose and art … so, the fifth state of the situation was created when i found myself underwhelmed and, in fact, a little put off by what seemed to me to be the lack of clarity and the kind of chaotic unnecessary overload of notes in “Badinage” …  I was implicitly thinking, if he’s using “Badinage” to hold himself above Chopin, he’s wrong … but Godovsky’s quote is, not that he was better than Chopin, but that he and Liszt were the only ones who had further contributed to piano since Chopin.  Badinage may be a contribution to training, finger strength, and stamina even if it’s a step back in beauty.  … sixth step in situation was, when scanning some of the other Chopin Etudes to note the time and key signatures of each, but, in the process, seeing that they were — taken together — gorgeous, artful, wide-ranging, and really challenging … at that point, I was impressed with Chopin’s full breadth of technical level, teaching skill, composition skill, and artistic sense … and slightly negatively impressed with parts of Godovsky’s Badinage … comparing all that to my perception of what he thought … I’m realizing here that there are 3, not 2, pieces of his thinking to guess at (1) what he intended for his Studies, (2) what he thought he’d accomplished with his studies, and (3) what overall — not just his studies — he thought he’d accomplished in the piano world … the “Liszt and I” quote isn’t necessarily restricted to his Studies as I see now I had implicitly assumed while racing through the steps in my own study of his studies of Chopin’s etudes … : _) …

hm … how to avoid going into loops from here? …

starting over … ok, based on Badinage alone, Godovsky can’t get my topmost top rating because, even if he was creating better pushups and situps and leg raises for piano players, it’s not ok for him to do it by cramming way too much stuff into over-cluttered passages in Badinage … if he wanted my topmost top rating as a giant in piano history, he would have to have done Badinage better somehow or not published it at all as something I would not be able to avoid comparing with Chopin’s original etudes … And I’m realizing that this is not just me personally, but also an objective criteria to apply because …

… here’s why … another issue … the etudes and the studies are, as their name clearly indicates, exercises for students to learn from and train on.  learn and train on what?  chopin’s answer is:  learn and train on both piano technique and getting a feel/sense/ear for what’s elegant, aesthetically right, Quality, balanced, etc.  not just playing every nuance that’s physically playable on a piano.  (hey, i banged out (literally) some really great physically possible stuff when i had that sustain pedal pressed back in my grandmother’s house in the fourth grade!) so we have the teaching art on top of the piano playing technique and piano composition arts.  As a teacher, and as a teacher of composition as art — not just as a player, not just as a composer, not just as a teacher of piano technique — Chopin made sure each of his Etudes would cause his students to be spending time getting the experience, the feel, being in the environment of, artfully-composed and artfully-crafted and state-of-the-art challenging piano music and play.  When Godovsky overloads Badinage — even if he’s knowingly doing that and does it anyway because he wants to increase player strength — he causes the student to live in an environment, a feeling, of music that’s aesthetically out of balance, out of proportion.  It’s ok for a wrestling or football coach to have an athlete lift 250 pounds in weight training for a few minutes three times a week in order to increase overall strength for routinely lifting 175 pounds in wrestling matches and football games, but — if that’s what Godovsky was doing — he should have made it clear he was producing something unbeautiful and just doing it based on Chopin to make the heavy lifting more attractive.  I don’t know if he did that or if he just let his authority and technical razzle dazzle lean on people to just agree to the idea that Badinage was a contribution akin to Chopin’s.

What else can I add to get to 100 pages of this Doctoral thesis on Godovsky, Chopin, Their Studies and Etudes?  (WordPress pays me based on the number of words I type.)  … update continues in next bracketed section after and in response to one more paragraph of old stuff …  ]

Maybe I should listen again to Chopin’s “Waterfall” Etude (Opus 10 No 1) and Godovsky’s First Study on the Waterfall Etude.  The performance of Waterfall on that sheet music video is ok for getting acquainted with the piece and its sheet music, but I don’t think it’s played well enough for assessing it vs. Godovsky’s study.  Here’s another performance of it from Victor Ashkenazy in a concert hall on BBC’s channel 4.  And here’s a fairly definitive performance of the “Waterfall” Etude, by the lovely Valentina Lisitsa from her DVD and series of videos on YouTube covering the 24 Chopin Opus 10 and 25 Etudes.

[Update, dec 31 early eve:  Since I wrote this, I got bowled over by Valentina Lisitsa’s astonishing play (I hadn’t noticed it when placing her Chopin Etudes on the playlist).  Her Waterfall is gorgeous.  And — think about this — no videos of Godovsky’s Chopin etude studies.  I felt listening to her play Badinage might show me wrong about the over-packed passages in Badinage.  Not likely, though, since I’ve already heard Jung Lin play it … I just listened to Badinage again … the only way I can respect it is if Godovsky maybe published notes along with the score and positioned it as kind of a comedic piece … oh boy … you’re not going to believe this … googling on “badinage” gives to jest, make merry, badin is fool or jester, light, playful, make merry, to jest … there it is … he maybe knows it’s a mess … but like putting waterfall’s right hand into the left hand, putting the two 2/4 time -flats pieces together is a funny concept … wow … ok, i’m back to maybe the Studies are a top shelf play by Godovsky … need to listen to the 1st waterfall study again to see if it’s, not only more robust, but more or not any less beautiful or at least pretty …

… but, before that, here’s the thing …

by the way, all this thinking it through is excellent preparation for visiting with the other 30+ Chopin Etudes and 50 Godovsky Studies … it’s called getting a LOT of value from THINKING about a very small part of all the available data rather than thinking superficially or not at all about the never-ending flood of available data … the Shaw quote in my book … there’s thinking and then there’s thinking (that part was me quoting me) …  GB Shaw:  “i made an international reputation by thinking three or four times per year” or something close to that …

but here’s the thing … i’m back to that attitude of admiring and having a high-level cosmic laugh with Godovsky, and appreciating the Quality of his high-level historic play, since, if, in fact, he did … if … i almost can’t type “if” at this point … if he intended it as a joke … badinage means fooling around … and he doesn’t say it in any notes, he says it in the title with an elegant cultural reference to the medieval jesters of yore … what?  your what?  yore mama, pal … anyway … let’s look at the sheet music for Badinage again … don’t know if these are Godovsky’s original score sheets, but it’s pretty clear … it says “47” of 54 on the left, Chopin at top, Opus 10 No 5 & Opus 25 No 9, then, under all that, in smaller typefont, “Badinage” … pretty cool …

all of this raises the possibility Godovsky knew it was terrible and published it anyway … which, in this perspective, is not dumb ass, but brilliant … shows to go ya’ … how fine a line it can be between being perceived well or ill … wow …

need to listen to that 1st Godovsky study of Waterfall again … hm … i have two versions … one the sheet music video and one marc-andre hamelin … oh, i remember now … this is the piece that got the discussion about sustain pedals going … i had wanted to hear the right hand transplanted to left more clear as individual notes … and the marc hamelin audio was a little more clear, but i thought it should come through more clearly … ok, so godovsky chopin waterfall is pretty …

ok, then.  that means we’re back to expecting only great things from mr godovsky’s studies of chopin’s etudes

on the teaching arts point i beat godovsky up on a few paragraphs back … with artful “badinage” jester spirit of the piece, one could argue, and i will, that Badinage role models and has students learning and practicing in a context of a combination of being serious about extending technical virtuosity (at lower craft levels), being clever compositionally (at opus structural and career/profession/musicHistory levels), having style, and being at a life perspective where being really serious about being effective involves not taking it all too seriously … and the imperfect — dare I say, second-rate? — sound in “Badinage”, being now deliberate, becomes an homage to the Chopin funny “Wrong Note” Etude (Op 25-5) … wow …

jeez … what a roller coaster ride … Mortimer Adler said it would happen … he said our views of what the masters were intending, were themselves experiencing when they sent us their works, might not yet be what was actually on/in their minds …

wow wow wow … dec 31 6:34pm ]

Spot checking in Opus 10: “Waterfall” (Opus 10 No 1) is written in 4/4 with no flats (key of C … or, I guess A minor … not sure how that relative minor/major thing is supposed to work when you can see the same sharps or flats for both, but I’m pretty sure “Waterfall” is simply key of C).

Anyway, spot-checking so far finds none of the other Etudes being 4/4 time and the key with 6 flatted notes in its diatonic (ie, do re mi fa so la ti do) scale.  The timing and key of Butterfly and Black Key may have been part of why did a study combining them.

As I get more into it, Black Key is SO cute.  There are 3 or 4 different kinds of soft quick tease endings, six or seven total, that lead to the sudden crisp fortissimo descending 10-note sequence of sixteenth note followed by three 1-beat triplets and an eighth note.  but that’s a tease ending too because there’s one more tease and the little end.  very cool.

On this rumbling and rumbling effect, I don’t mind it on the left hand of Aeolian Harp Etude.  The right hand single notes on the sheet music video’s audio are a little blunt though.


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