Monday, February 15, 2010

"A Trio of Myopic & Near-Sighted Rodents"

The fifteenth installment in Robert Ian Winstin's "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series

"A Trio of Myopic & Near-Sighted Rodents"

"A Trio of Myopic & Near-Sighted Rodents."

OK ... so I still suck at titles, but ... you have to admit - this one's fun!

Of course, I'm talking about using the theme of the children's rhyme "Three Blind Mice" as the basis for this piece.

Like a previous posting, "Noodle, Poodle, Doodle," (which used the military tune "Yankee Doodle" as it's basis) I'm using an old established tune to jump off from in a highly technical manner. (Technical to us piano thumpers means lots of notes!)

As a pianist certain techniques always came easy to me; cascading chords, odd scalar patterns, poly-rhythmic organizations - they all just happen in my hands. Long established techniques (read - more boring!) always required a lot more work than my colleagues to master.

This could, of course, be why I gravitated to modern literature as a young pianist.

One of the other things I love about music is it's ability to be humorous. Music can be fun and acerbic - just like a poem, novel, short story, etc. Why do we composers spend so much of our time being so serious all the time. (Underscore, bold and put "all" in as many different colors as you can!)

Really, it seems to be so inherent in a composers life to be so serious.

"You think Tchaikovsky made jokes!"

(Wow! Who said that?) "Well, ... he must have made some ..."

"Idiot! He was a real composer; serious, angst ridden ... filled with pathos the likes of you will never understand! He was Russian! You need to be more like him!"

"Really? To be really like him I'd have to be a much better drinker than I am and ... dead now. Besides, I'm American ... we have a sense of humor!"

Well, OK - that wasn't a real conversation, just talking to myself - and you know what they say about people who talk to themselves?

(Really? What do they say? Who said that?)

Actually, about a decade ago I lectured at the famed Tchaikovsky Conservatory. It was during one of the first recording sessions that I was doing with the Kiev Philharmonic and they graciously invited me to speak and play for them.

One of the composition students stood to ask me a question during the Q & A part of my lecture.

"Why you have so much humor - so much funny in speech?"

"I'm glad you found the humor in it. I ask you - Why not?"

" ... well ...?" He was clearly not liking this. "Well, composer is serious person. You should be serious person."

"I am serious person." Launching right into his syntactical rhythm. "I'm just not sad all the time. I enjoy life, art ... music. We don't have to be sad to be serious." Why was I the only one laughing in the room? Where was my vodka?

"Sadness is part of artistic process ..."

"No, sadness is part of depression. I don't have to be bi-polar to write sad or happy music."

"Happy music? Happy music is only happy because you heard sad music before. Is answer to angst."

"This," he continued looking at me through his blood-shot eyes - no doubt earned after a night of quelling his sadness with vodka - "This, is our lot as composers in life."

Well, just how do you answer that? Our lot in life as composers, as artists is to be ... sad? Well, that's just ... sad.

I guess I'm just a pretty happy person. (A bit of irony is that one of the most played pieces on classical radio in Kiev is the third movement to my "Taliban Dances" - which features a slide whistle and thirty-seven balloons popping!)

So, in that vein - here's a happy piece that is based on "Three Blind Mice." It is very tactile, technical and ... well, pretty much a lot of fun to play.

I hope that it is fun to listen to. I'll be sad if it isn't!

(If I were into those annoying little emoticons, I would insert a smiley face here!)

Robert Ian Winstin

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Many thanks to Randy from Scranton, PA for the great "Three Blind Mice" image!