Friday, April 27, 2012

Two Thumbs Up, and How!

In three days it will be precisely four years since I began the Kootenay Ranger, the blog that became a little family of blogs, and the perfect kind of outlet for a writer like myself, a much studied senior citizen who suffers fools gladly in any office except that of the editor or publisher. April 30, 2008, feast day of that stern old Dominican pope, Saint Pis V. I didn't intend the timing, it merely came up as the result of my asking the junior agent's opinion on yet another prospective guinea pig for piano studies. It was getting close to lunch time, and in order to make sure I actually got fed - the agent also wears a chef's hat - I had to back away from the student plan, quickly, and agree that it was time I started putting my ideas on the Net. The rest, as they say is history, and not a little success, given that a writer who spends so much effort promoting the toughest writer that ever lived, the impregnable John of the Cross, king of all the mystics, can acquire four thousand hits from around the world. Selling pain has never been the route to fame and fortune, even when it is acknowledged that the great Carmelite's brand of agonies paves the fastest track to Heaven man will ever find, so those four thousand nods, even though many of them were entirely accidental, are not a little satisfying.
What is equally satisfying, I have lately been made to realize, was that my instinctive reaching out for what would have been my youngest experimental student was not entirely in error. There was something utterly primitive provoking my inquiries over basic fingering fundamentals, which was most certainly not being answered by any teachers or texts that I was aware off. I think now that I would never have found the solution with a child that young, however, and I know that there was still a great deal of analytical probing to be done. And oddly enough, and I think quite to my surprise, the solution actually lay in close study of written music, and not only written, but written in four-part harmony. In other words, a lot of attention to Bach's two-part inventions, etc, was not the full answer by any means.
Again, Marianne had a lot to do with this. She has been getting more and more involved with chant and Latin, partly through listening to what's available on the Net, and partially by printing from the same source. About two months ago she found the Vatican Kyriale, all 156 pages of it, laid down in four parts by the Belgian musician, Achille P. Bragers, in 1937. She printed it out and put it all in a big ring binder in nice plastic sleeves. I did not actually leap with joy at first, to tell the truth, but quite quickly some great progress with Tim McDaniel's reading skills led to my realizing that Bragers would be the perfect text. I had learned. more or less, how to decipher modes so that we could read the chant texts in numbers and Tim was eager to fly at it, with something more substantial than nursery rhymes and folk songs.
And some how, I had found the secret I had been hunting for so long: with four parts the key is to begin reading with the alto and tenor lines, played at first - and for some time - only with the respective thumbs. And I mean respective, just one at a time, at least for a while.
Tim has done so much work with intervals, with both thumb involved and thumb entirely removed, that he is very precise. Adding soprano and bass notes with the requisite finger follows quite naturally.
Honey, we're home.
Now, how long will it take the Canadian Conference, currently playing around in the music publishing business with the worst melodies imaginable, to catch on?

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