AVA180: I'm not sure if F# major key would sound well on the organ with Kirnberger III temperament
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 180 of Ask Vidas and Ausra podcast. This question was sent by John and he writes:
Thanks for your encouragement, my main concern with the repertoire fitting the organ is Festive Trumpet Tune, which is a modern piece, and near the end it has a trumpet fanfare and then modulates from F major up a semitone to F sharp major, and the main theme at from the beginning repeats up a semitone. I'm not sure how this unusual key would sound with Kirnberger III temperament, which I have never heard of before! On equal temperament organs it sounds fine.
V: So John is coming to Lithuania in just four weeks I believe and he’s preparing to play some beautiful organ music on Kirnberger III temperament and one of his problems is this “Festive Trumpet Tune” which modulates to the tonality of six sharps which would might sound harsh or too harsh on our organ. Don’t you think or not?
A: Well people used to play even you know harder music on our organ.
V: It wouldn’t be a problem?
A: I think it should be OK.
V: Remember you played your Vierne Symphony Number 3 there.
A: Oh no. I would never do it but still I played it and it was fine.
V: It’s in F sharp minor but it has obviously segments in F sharp major too.
A: Sure. And so many diminished chords. Like diminished chords one after another, long sequence of diminished chords and no resolutions.
V: And I suspect that his trumpet tune in F or F sharp major wouldn’t be as harsh because it’s not as dissonant as Vierne’s harmony.
A: Yes, that’s true. I think it should work OK.
V: It totally has some basic tonic, subdominant, dominant chords probably. Maybe some modulation in between but not too chromatic.
A: I know and since it’s not entire piece it should work just fine. And talking about that I played Vierne’s symphony, you played Messiaen “Diptyque” on that organ.
V: I did?
A: Yes, on that organ.
V: Oh, I never…
A: Do you think it sounded better?
V: I never would repeat this piece on that organ today. I was young and stupid. Now, I’m just stupid.
A: Not young anymore.
V: Yeah. Whenever I improvise on this instrument sometimes I use different modes and jump from one key to another and I definitely use F sharp major from time to time. But then I always listen to what I play how it sounds right? And it does make a difference on this temperament this type of key. It’s a little bit more colorful that F major. F major is very calm and peaceful. F sharp major is more dramatic. But maybe it’s a good thing.
A: Yes, that’s what I like about Kirnberger III. But you can play quite a lot of music on it. But it sounds much more interesting when in equal temperament. So it’s real nice.
V: What other surprises this organ might throw at John?
A: Well, don’t ask me.
V: John also wrote that he is worried about sharps and natural keys being in reverse colors. C sharp is for example white and C is black. And he has never played this type of layout before.
A: I don’t think this will be a problem you know. I never even thought about things like this.
V: But do you remember the first time you played this type of keyboard?
A: Yes, I remember.
V: At musical academy right?
A: At my school, National Ciurlionis School of Art. On that small organ.
V: So you practiced in the practice room. Was it a weird feeling for you after playing piano for a lot of years?
A: Actually it was a nice feeling.
V: Nice or weird?
A: Well, nice.
V: Nicely weird?
A: Nicely weird. Yes.
V: Or weirdly nice?
A: Whatever. But it was a nice thing. My piano teacher, since I played Bach well you know on the piano so as an award of that she allowed me to play it on the organ.
A: Which stood in her classroom.
V: It’s a nice award, right? I think all the teachers could have this type of award. For example if they work hard enough with their students their students could let them play the organ. Instead of getting the salary. The principal of our school could have the system, would be cheaper though.
A: (Laughs.) Do you think he would still be able to keep his employers?
V: Oh, some of them yeah. Some who pay for this privilege to play the organ. Would you pay?
A: Well not for that organ that the school has.
V: No, it’s too boring I believe.
A: Too shabby.
V: Yeah. But now I think John will have many more problems than just adjusting to the different layout of the colors.
A: Yes, I think colors should be still fine, you know it shouldn’t bother. I think maybe during the first ten minutes of his practice. But then it’s just fine.
V: I remember my other students who first tried the organ at school with sharps being white. Some of them said “Oh, it’s interesting feeling.” But nobody really messed up with their pieces or played incorrectly because of that. Maybe it was a weird different feeling, but it didn’t distract them too much. What will distract of course John, is the heavy mechanical action.
A: Yes, I think this will be the hardest thing to manage.
V: If he is used to you know, maybe lighter mechanical action organs in Australia. But also if he can play piano in between now and his coming that would help. If he would play with couplers that would help too.
V: Excellent. So we hope people will not be too disturbed if they travel for example anywhere and discover a different layout. It’s good to see different kinds of layout, right? White-black, black-white.
A: Yes, or sometimes you could get like brown keys, like in our home.
V: Brown and browner.
A: Yes, sort of dark brown and light brown.
V: Yes, or in my house, my former house where my Mom now is, she has a piano with colored keys now. And that helps her to memorize where C-D-E is.
V: She puts stickers, colored stickers on top of keys.
A: If she would be my kid I would punish her for doing it.
V: But you know she is a graphic artist maybe she thinks in colors.
A: I know.
V: Alright guys. We hope you can experiment with different kinds of colors and layouts and don’t be too distracted by them because the most important thing is not to get attached to anything. The organs are as magnificent instrument as they are because of variety, right Ausra?
A: Sure, so you have to adjust each time, but that’s the beauty.
V: And each time you play those kinds of instruments you will probably make a small discovery about yourself, about this instrument, and about the music that you are playing.
A: Yes, and at the end of your life you can write wonderful memoirs.
V: Maybe ten volumes of them. Or even start memoirs now like a diary and publish them on Steemit and earn rewards and maybe in time those rewards can become your additional stream of revenue. Thank you guys. This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember when you practice…
A: 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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