Winter Update - 2018
Hello all, I've been back logged with unfinished blogs and it seems now long over due to post something. I figured I'd give an update about some of my recent comings and goings. In particular a short story involving a certain Oscar Ghiglia. I managed the opportunity to perform bits and pieces of Ponce's 'Coincierto Del Sur' at Wexford National Opera House and it was an experience worth documenting.
I've performed for Mr. Ghiglia first in May 2016 while I was at Manhattan School of Music and it was great to see him again. Mr. Ghiglia maintained a lot of the same themes and concepts from the other master classes and it's fascinating to hear the concepts develop again even a year later. His teaching style as most will know is very unique and really revolves around developing a type of sympathy with the 'abstract.' Mr. Ghiglia likes to separate melodic and harmonic fragments into small chunks usually no bigger than an augmented fifth and he calls these modes. By doing so he is able to reduce even a-tonal or more fragmented passages into a coherent scalar unit. Organizing these into units requires a great deal of aural skills and as someone who's really into theory and musicianship this is of course right up my alley. However Mr. Ghiglia takes this a step further by drawing our attention to developing a type of sympathy with the modes, and like all genuine sympathy requires a personal awareness. Mr. Ghiglia often asked each player where their name comes from, a bit about their heritage (or what he inferred based on their name), or their background because to him, sympathy with the modes requires a kind of historical awareness. Being aware of your ancestry, upbringing, biology, culture, and how they affect your ability to be sympathetic to the music. The more familiar you are with the building blocks of a piece of music (and perhaps more connected with your own building blocks) the more sympathetically you respond when you encounter them in a piece of music. **(See below for tangent on this.)**
It was a great masterclass but the best part was of course the few conversations we had outside of the class. Our group was walking Mr. Ghighlia back to the hotel and he was mentioning to me the specifics of how to be more sympathetic to the details when suddenly he grabbed my shoulder, half to support himself and half to wrench my attention. 'You have to respond to the intervals!' He said! 'Then you will see, here, let me teach you my super secret interval exercise, I do this everyday!' He tightened his grip.
We were, at this point stopped outside of his hotel at peak hours and he began singing at me and encouraging me to do the same. First an octave (do-do), then after much struggle on my part, a descending major 7th, (do-flattened Re-do) then a descending minor 7th, and a major 6th, a minor 6th, and so on and so forth until every possible interval was exhausted . We then proceeded in reverse, first a major 7th up, then a minor 7th, a major 6th, all the way down again back to do. The whole ordeal taking what seemed like an eternity of concerted effort.
By this time the group we were with had inched further and further away from us and it seemed the two of us stood alone as the hotel entrance resumed to it's usual busy gray. Oscar left with a simple order 'Do this everyday and you will find you respond to every interval differently, maybe one reminds you of childhood or this and that- who knows!- but do this everyday and you will find your playing enriched.' With that he said goodbye and left us, without even so much as a friend request on Facebook.
I thought this exercise to be of such a great utility I started practicing it every day and lo and behold I've found myself getting slowly more sympathetic. I've decided to write out the exercise and post it here for all of you to practice yourselves. I hope you enjoy it!
*TANGENT* The idea of being historically aware of yourself coincides nicely with the recent upswing of 21st century identity politics. As an American of mixed heritage, and son of a 1st generation Italian immigrant now living in Ireland where I just so happen to have ancestors from, the question of historical awareness becomes ripe with speculation and questioning. Does the Czech origin of my last name give me more sympathy towards Czech melodies? Does my huge Sicilian speaking family somehow make me more sympathetic to Italian melodies? I'd like to say I knew the answer but I don't really think I do. Perhaps for another blog post.