Today's question was sent by Paulius. He's is preparing for an organ recital where he will play Praeludium in C, BuxWV 137 by D. Buxtehude, Prelude, Fugue and Variation by C. Franck and my own Op. 39 - Festive Processional. This piece gives him the most trouble and Paulius wants to know how to learn to read complex modern organ music easier.
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TRANSCRIPT (please tell us if reading the text of these podcasts would be helpful to you):
Vidas: Hello guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And we're starting episode 33 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast, and today's question was sent by Paulius, and he asked, "How can I read complex modern music easier?" You see, the situation, Ausra, you remember he is preparing for a recital in Vilnius Cathedral, and he is playing my Opus 39, Festive Processional, and there are a lot of complex notes and rhythms there. He is struggling to read those notes and rhythms correctly. So what would you suggest for him to do first?
Ausra: First of all, I think he must analyze how that piece is put together, how it's composed. Because if you will find the key from the composition, how it was set up, I think you will be able to learn it easier. Otherwise if you would just sight-read it, it might not make sense for you.
Vidas: Yes, you have to basically deconstruct the piece, right?
Vidas: And think about how the piece was put together before in my mind, right?
Vidas: So of course, it's not easy because he's not the composer, right? He has to look deep into what's happening, into the music. Do you think that finding out the different modes would help him?
Ausra: Sure, I think so, if it's a modal piece, you know. If it's based on a mode, then definitely it would help.
Vidas: This music has lots of improvisatory rhythms, because it was improvised first, and then written down, and it's sometimes difficult to play those syncopations, and the complex ties and dotted notes.
Ausra: There is only one way to learn it correctly. You must count the smallest rhythmic value and you must count in those values.
Vidas: That will help, right?
Ausra: Yes that will help. You wouldn't have to do it for the rest of your life, only while you are learning this piece.
Vidas: This applies not only for this particular composition but many other modern pieces, right?
Vidas: That people are playing regardless of nationality or style.
Ausra: Because, in my opinion, most modern music has very mathematical approach to composing it. If you crack that formula down it will be easy to learn. The hardest thing to find is what formula it is.
Vidas: You have to think deep into the chordal structure and keys. Sometimes those difficult looking accidentals and rhythms only mean that there is a hidden key to unlocking this process, right?
Vidas: Do you think that doing just once is enough or you have to repeat this process over and over again?
Ausra: I think you have to repeat it. Maybe sometimes in order to write in the score in which keys, in which mode in that particular episode. Just like, remember we are learning now. That piece written by you also, which you wrote originally for flute and organ. Now we are playing it with organ duo.
Vidas: Again. It seems like music written by me is complicated to play for other people.
Ausra: Well it's not that complicated. You just have to know to switch to different key very quickly.
Vidas: Yes it's good that sometimes I write the number of accidentals next to the clef for that episode. So you know in that episode how many accidental there are right away.
Ausra: Yes, it's very helpful.
Vidas: Sometimes I don't write it. Sometimes I write it next to the note.
Ausra: If it's easier for you, for example, this episode has three sharps and they are not added to the clef, you can do it yourself. Maybe, on top of that line you just write three sharps or four flats and so on and so forth.
Vidas: But you have to do this yourself then.
Ausra: The best thing about modern music is, if you will not play it, one hundred percent is written, nobody will notice it. I'm quite sure, so don't panic if you will hit a few wrong notes.
Vidas: By the way, what was the last challenging piece for you from the modern period that you cracked down and really learned to play, but it was difficult for you?
Ausra: This piece by you, Fantasia on the Themes by M.K. Ciurlionis, Op. 11a, for example, wasn't so easy in the beginning. I had to crack it down.
Vidas: And before that?
Ausra: Let me think, probably learning Messiaen.
Vidas: A lot of people love Messiaen, and it seems like an equal number of people hate Messiaen.
Ausra: Well, with Messiaen is a strange thing. I studied his compositional techniques quite a lot and in depth. The better I know his compositions, the less I like them. I don't know why, especially those late ones. Including piano and organ. If I had to choose, I would probably choose his early pieces, like Nativité du Seigneur.
Vidas: Do you remember you played Laudes by Petr Eben, Czech composer.
Vidas: Was it challenging for you to learn it?
Ausra: Well not as much as I expected at first because in the Lithuania we have this big thing him and Laudes. It seems like because professor Digrys started playing this cycle and it seemed like a very big deal. After learning, it myself I didn't find it so hard. It's sort of a mathematical piece too. Of course rhythms give problems.
Vidas: You applied your own advice.
Ausra: Yes. Petr Eben played organ himself. He knew the instrument very well - it fits into your hands, your feet. It's not like some crazy stuff that you are trying to adapt to your organ. It's actually all very natural.
Vidas: It's quite musically easy to guess what's happening once you know the system. Sometimes those polytonal things are difficult to guess but easy to decipher.
Ausra: I think the rhythm is probably the most difficult problem in the that organ cycle.
Vidas: How about music by Jean Alain. The 2nd Fantasie Was it difficult for you?
Vidas: It's not that easy to play.
Ausra: Yes it's not very easy but it's manageable. The most interesting thing I took the 2nd Fantasie after many years of playing it. Now I think the last time I played was way back in the Omaha Cathedral, where I played for the masterclass for Olivier Latry. Now I picked it up and I can almost play it in the right tempo.
Vidas: You practiced this piece so many times back then, when myself tried to sight-read this piece a few days ago, it seemed like it was coming back to me too.
Ausra: Yes, overall Jean Alain was not my most favorite French composer. I just feel so sorry but his life was so short.
Vidas: Right. Second world war.
Ausra: It ended so abruptly and so tragically. He would have been such a great composer. Definitely no less famous and good as Messiaen.
Vidas: I hope people can apply your tips and really decide for the piece first before practicing any organ piece but specifically challenging complex modern music.
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Wonderful. This was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: 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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