Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Prelude and Fugue
I have students working on Johann Sebastian Bach this spring and he's a stinker, that one. (I know what it looks like, but it's pronounced fewg.) Everybody gets a baroque piece; 3 students specifically have a Prelude and Fugue set. We hope to learn the art of voicing, that each hand's melody is important, fingering, phrase shaping, listening! The learning list goes on a long time; that is why Bach is so cool. He wrote a set in every key (that's 24 of them), twice! Brilliant! I've never been able to write one that I really liked.
Today they are all struggling with the same thing, and it's not the Prelude. It's the voices of the Fugue. It's allowing each hand to speak independently. I like to explain that it's like a lunchroom with 3-4 friends at a table. The conversation turns to a certain topic, and all 4 have an opinion about it. Most of the time the girl begins, then another girl chimes in, followed by a boy or two. We need to hear each person's voice and their opinion on the topic.
Here's the hard part. Most of the time in the music, like life, the girls continue to talk while the boys are speaking. It's the way it is. We need to let them talk, but we want to hear what the boys are saying, so the boys need to speak louder and the girls need to tone it down.
I broke it down to patting on our laps today. Just the effort of patting one hand louder than the other on your thigh can be tricky. Go ahead, try it, I'll wait. Pat your Right Hand (RH) firmly against your right thigh, now pat your Left Hand (LH) gently on your left thigh. At the same time. Got it? Now switch it around. Then imagine eventually doing individual fingers.
I also gave them the idea to voice their warm-up scales one hand louder than the other, and to try to write their first name with their other hand. Whatever you do with one hand, mimic with the other! This is mostly just to be silly. We'll get there, one musical sentence at a time. (Silo prelude and fugue, wrapping our fingers around it with ivy)