Sunday, February 21, 2010

Faust's Answer to Wagner (try again)

In this installment, Faust is answering some of the jeering he is getting from his assistant Wagner.

FYI, the scene includes Faust, his assistant Wagner, and a group of peasants. The peasants have been dancing and drinking toasts to Faust for his past efforts to cure them of a "pest".

Since I am waiting for the video to upload, I might as well mention that this musical fragment is part of an experiment with "recitative". As you can read online, recitative is a musical form where the natural cadence of speaking takes precedence over a fixed rhythmic beat. You can also extract from the literature that recitative often includes a kind of alternation between a strummed chord on the instrument(s) and a spoken declamation. But these descriptions to not come close to describing the very very rigid form that is used from Handel and Bach (and earlier?) onward through Gluck, Rossini, and Mozart, and then into modern opera where it takes its final form as the bulk of the dialog. For what it is worth, Jazz poetry often takes the form of recitative and one could say that rap is another form of it. But to come back to the "rigid form" and something I cannot find reference to online, there is a very standard device where the voice ends on a dominant note followed by a dominant-tonic ending done only by the instrument(s). That, as much as anything, defines the format for me. Also in the literature you read how composers slowly refined the blending of recitative with "standard" rhythmic cadence phrasing and, for example in Rossini, you can enjoy how they switch back and forth smoothly between speaking and singing. So that is what I am up to here: blending between a voice-instrument alternation and a voice-instrument coordination. Also, I admit it, the kids were playing Leanord Cohen's "Hallelujah" non-stop in the basement.

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