Vidas: Let's start Episode 41 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And Ron sent this question to us:
"Hi Vidas and Ausra,
You are the best teachers. The pedal training is really helping me to integrate my entire body into organ playing. It is a slow process, but well worth it. As you learn to slow down and get things right - which doesn’t happen overnight, especially since the learning process is very biological and physiological—it is as if you are learning to keep your feet underneath you, metaphorically. Practice goes one step at a time, and life goes one step at a time.
I have a question, rather questions. When playing on the pedals, for instance, E flat then D, then C sharp then D, the D sounds different in each sequence. There is a sort of shift of frequency in the mind—the D sounds higher in the first as compared to the second of the sequences. However, if you start on the D and go to E flat, then D to C sharp, the D sounds just fine, the same frequency. I realize it is psychological. It reminds me of the phenomenon of comparative colors, where one color seems shifted a bit depending on which other color it is next to.
Is there any explanation for that? Does it affect ear training? Is there an exercise to practice discerning notes like that? The most interesting part about learning the organ can be these small things.
Thank you for your great programs!"
So, interesting question, right?
Ausra: It's a very interesting question.
Vidas: Not too many people bother about those intricate details.
Ausra: And not many people actually notice them.
Vidas: What I think is maybe it has something to do with temperament? Remember, a few weeks ago we played in Stockholm on the old organ at the German church and it had this mean-tone temperament. And in mean-tone temperament, when you play chromatic scale, certain notes basically sound higher and certain notes - higher.
Vidas: So if you play D, as Ron says, and then Eb and then D and then C#... C# would sound lower.
Ausra: Sure, that's right.
Vidas: Even though in D minor it would be like a leading tone, but C# is lower in mean-tone temperament and Eb is sort of closer to D.
Ausra: Yes, and it also might be related to the position of the pipes in the organ case, too.
Vidas: Exactly. I don't know what kind of organ does he play but if we have this classical C and C# pipe organ layout, then pipes are positioned in diatonic steps: C-D-E-F#-G#-Bb are on the left side and C#-D#/Eb-F-G-A-B are the right side.
Vidas: So, this means that D is one side and C# and Eb are on another side.
Ausra: And depending if you're ascending or descending from that D it might sound different while going one way or another acoustically because pipes are standing on another side of an organ case.
Vidas: That might be it. Ron also writes when you play D and go to Eb and then to D and C#, D sounds just fine, the same frequency. It's a different feeling when you go upward or downward, for him. But maybe it has something to do with some kind of physiological feeling what kind of note is next to each other?
Ausra: That's true. For example, when I practice on the pipe organ, sometime I hear a principal chorus. For me it's the same as there would be human voices singing.
Ausra: I get this feeling. It's really strange.
Vidas: And some people can really discern colors from chords.
Ausra: Sure, like Olivier Messiaen.
Vidas: And Stravinsky. And maybe Ciurlionis.
Ausra: I don't know about Ciurlionis.
Vidas: His musical works are so influenced by his paintings and vice versa - paintings are influenced by music.
So the second part of Ron's question is "Is there an exercise you can practice discerning notes like that?" Can you develop through training where you can hear the sounds differently?
Ausra: Well, some people might, some - not.
Vidas: Yeah. It depends on the personality probably.
Ausra: But I think Ron would be an excellent organ tuner. He could tune organs very well because he hears these vibrations. So that's an excellent skill.
Vidas: Right. And of course it's not easy to hear it for regular people, so if Ron hears this, it's a gift.
Ausra: Yes, definitely.
Vidas: Keep it and practice by hearing vibrations even more. The more you practice, the better you become by listening differing vibrations. Even if you go to the church where somebody else is playing, walk around because you will hear different vibrations.
Vidas: For example, have you ever walked around when myself or other people were playing in our church?
Ausra: Yes, and it sounds very different actually from different angles of the church.
Vidas: How different?
Ausra: Well, very different.
Vidas: And what is different?
Ausra: Well, everything.
Vidas: Like what?
Ausra: The power of the organ. The sound actually in some places is really loud but in other places it's quite soft. And in some parts you can hear different organ stops. So it's very interesting.
Vidas: And even different pitches making themselves louder than others. For example, under one balcony or one column you can hear Eb, I remember very well. Or when you climb the organ balcony on this staircase, you can hear the pedal voices very well.
Ausra: Sure, it's very interesting.
Vidas: Acoustical marvels.
Ausra: I wish modern architects would think about acoustics when they are building new churches because some of them have dead acoustics.
Vidas: Oh, this is too much to ask, I think. A lot of architects even don't think about organs.
Ausra: Sure, definitely.
Vidas: Don't leave the space for organs when they plan the space.
Excellent, guys. Please send us more of your questions and the best way to connect with us is through our blog, subscribe at www.organduo.lt and reply to any of our messages and we'll reply to your questions on this podcast. And make sure you also practice pedalwork, like Ron.
By the way, do we have a course recommend to people who want to improve their organ playing?
Ausra: Yes, we have.
Vidas: Like Organ Pedal Virtuoso?
Vidas: Because Pedal Virtuoso Master Course is designed for you to be able to play any type of pedalwork easily and without struggle. At first it might be difficult, right, Ausra? Because when you play those scales and arpeggios some people send us their feedback and they want to quit. And some people do quit but those who persevere later are very very joyful about this course because you can play scales and arpeggios legato, right? This is the basis for the modern technique and then you can really master any type of organ pedal line in organ composition without any struggle at all.
Ausra: Sure. Nothing comes easily at first but you must put some efforts and then you will have an excellent result.
Vidas: Wonderful. So guys, this was Vidas...
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice...
Ausra: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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