Assertions on the nature of music
1. Music is an absolute, existing outside of Man, along with all the other abstractions assigned by him to The Great Everything (TGE) which is too vast and impenetrable to be truly known—except, perhaps, by the few who achieve Satori, Nirvana, or “enlightenment” as with a Bodhisattva. (Note: “TGE” is my construction for what others may call God, JHWH, Jehovah, Allah, etc.).
2. Each of us, I assert, is attuned to this element or aspect of TGE in various ways and degrees. I liken each of us as having differently constructed vibrating rods (or sets of rods) that respond to the universal music according to our individual resonances. Hence, some will find, throughout life and consistently, music from the Classical Period, exemplified by Haydn and Mozart, preferable to hip-hop, though the latter may be sometimes appealing.
3. Each of us, I assert, has ability in varying degrees to receive/perceive this universal music and to interpret it first, to oneself and second, to others.
4. A special few have the ability to represent this music in accepted notational form and, therefore, can concretize the music itself by the physical representation of it.
Music flows, from TGE-knows-where and –how, to a receiving human who, with the necessary skills, makes accepted musical notations on paper (or performs to give example) to represent what he perceives, along with written (or spoken) language remarks to more fully communicate it, e.g.: tempo rubato (as with Chopin), glissando, fortissimo, etc.
A performing musician reads these notations and transforms them through her nervous system to the instrument of her choice, for her own experience and that of others.
To summarize: music from God, to composer, to paper, to player, to audience.
Playing the Piano, in General, and Chopin’s Music in Particular
As to how much one needs to practice one’s instrument in order to remain fluent in it, the necessary amount and frequency varies, depending on one’s natural talents and physiology. Practice is not only playing compositions in one’s repertoire, but also exercises to keep the “drive train” of the pianist in harmony: eyes, brain, nervous system from brain to arms to hands to fingers, and a feedback system for instantaneous self-correction and adjustment. Ideally, these are not conscious efforts by the pianist. She develops these as a unity.
There are standard, two-handed exercises I have done in my younger life:
1. Scales for each of the twelve keys in an octave, running at least one octave
2. Single thirds, similarly, usually for two or more octaves
3. Double thirds, similarly
4. Arpeggios, similarly
5. Exercises developed by musicians through the centuries: Carl Czerny (one of Beethoven’s teachers), Charles-Louis Hanon, and John Thompson, among others.
Absolute and Program Music
Haydn’s music is, for the most part, absolute music. Mozart did compose a greater proportion of program music than did Haydn, by my reckoning. Chopin continued the trend toward program music that generally occurred in the Romantic Period during which Chopin lived.
The performer, and the listener, will experience different emotions and sensations when listening to absolute vs. program music.
Here is how I respond to these two types:
Program music, on the other hand, will invoke more definable feelings: patriotism (Chopin’s Polonaises, any good march, Sibelius’s Finlandia), pastoral and nature visions (Beethoven’s sixth symphony, almost all of Ralph Vaughn Williams, much of Frederick Delius), the sweet melancholy of imagining the ending of a long and good life (The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams), etc.
Your character’s Mozart and Haydn pieces will be, unless marches or waltzes, absolute music, eliciting from her (or developing in her) the broadest, most eternal, let us say ‘religious’ feelings.
In imagining a pianist’s feelings, overall, while she is performing, I imagine she is in the “zone” or in the “flow” that athletes and other performers achieve when all physical and other attributes are in synchronization during a well-rehearsed and challenging event.
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The above is an attempt to capture, in words, the ineffable nature of music and its affect on and in humans.