SOPP638: As you know, I am not 'original' in my writing as I recognize everything I create is derivative - a fusion of everything I have ever heard or played
Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
V: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
A: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
V: So now let’s jump in and get started with the podcast for today.
A: We hope you’ll enjoy it!
V: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
Vidas: Let’s start episode 638 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Graham, and he comments on my recording of the practice session of his Idyll. So he writes,:
“Wonderful, Vidas! It was written in the summer of 2020 during the first lockdown of the Covid pandemic. I saw a competition advertised for a meditative piece for organ and this composition appeared nearly instantly! I do love Erik Satie's 'Gymnopedies' (I have heard you play No 2 on the organ!) and there is a strong French impressionist influence in this piece. It came together remarkably quickly from an initial improvisation to the finished composition as I was very near the deadline for submitting for the competition. As you know, I am not 'original' in my writing as I recognize everything I create is derivative - a fusion of everything I have ever heard or played. I love the music of Cole Porter and George Gershwin and Irving Berlin . . . so there is a trace of those songsters deep inside the piece as well. It sounds gorgeous on the Salisbury Willis - a sound I never expected to hear. THANK YOU!”
Vidas: So Ausra, do you remember me playing this piece?
Ausra: Yes, I remember it. Sweet little slow meditative piece.
Vidas: Idyll. It’s like a pastoral scene from an antiquity time with lots of nature and maybe some animals.
Ausra: I think it really fits the Salisbury organ very well.
Vidas: Yeah, I enjoyed playing it. So what Graham writes in response to the style, did you hear Erik Satie’s influence here?
Ausra: Yes, a little bit, yes!
Vidas: The triple meter is kind of similar to Satie’s Gymnopedies (here is the score of organ arrangement of Gymnopedie No. 1). I don’t know how to pronounce it either. So yeah. I wonder if it’s difficult to create or improvise a piece like this, Ausra!
Ausra: I think it depends on everybody’s skills!
Vidas: So as a harmony teacher, what do you hear when you listen to this piece?
Ausra: Well, as far as I have heard Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies, and I used to play them on piano, at least a few of them, they are strongly influenced by Jewish music, or at least that’s what I thought when I was working on them and when I heard them played. You played them on the organ. And of course in this Grahams piece, Idyll, I don’t hear that Jewish influence. At least not that remarkable. What do you think about that?
Vidas: By Jewish you mean special modes, right? Special intervals in the scale… augmented intervals. Right?
Ausra: Yes, and of course the minor keys.
Vidas: No, probably most similar this with Satie’s work stem from the triple meter in my mind. But other than that, it’s like a major key, idyllic character, slow moving tempo, and in general a very gentle rocking sort of feeling. It’s like a little bit… remember we played this piece by Ad Wammes about the boat.
Ausra: Yes, I remember it very well.
Vidas: Something about the lake, summertime, breeze…
Ausra: Yes there was sort of a like a suite out of like four movements.
Vidas: And one of them was probably in triple meter, too. So I imagine lying on the bottom of a small boat in the middle of the lake on a hot summer day, and this boat gently rocks back and forth. I can hear water splashing on it, on the sides of the boat, and maybe some sounds from nature, you know, gentle breeze blowing, also. Sort of idyllic vacation feeling. Do you like this feeling?
Ausra: Yes, especially now when it’s really cold outside. I would wish it would be summer and I could be on the lake!
Vidas: Do you usually spend your vacations like that on the bottom of the boat?
Ausra: Well, actually no, I don’t own the boat, so…
Vidas: Yeah, it’s new to me, but I can just imagine how it would look. Looking, obviously, up to the sky, right, when you lie on the bottom of the boat. It’s a good feeling. Could this piece work as a liturgical music, too?
Ausra: Of course. You could play it for communion. It wouldn’t hurt, definitely.
Vidas: Even though it’s not based on any preexisting chorale melody or hymn tune. But the gentle character fits the liturgy well; especially for communion, maybe offertory, maybe at the beginning, too, for gathering, as a prelude. Right?
Ausra: Maybe it’s too soft for a prelude.
Vidas: Why too soft?
Ausra: You would want something louder in order to quiet people who are walking downstairs.
Vidas: Oh, you mean like Brenda?
Vidas: Tell us about it!
Ausra: I think I already told about it a few times, about that comic strip that I saw when we were back as students at UNL, and there was an old lady in that drawing who actually had a hunting rifle, and she was sort of silencing the crowd for her prelude with a gun!
Vidas: Right. That’s probably very symptomatic of the situation before the service in any church. Right? People gather and they talk, they haven’t seen each other for a week, probably, or longer, so any music that is played before the service is not on their radar just yet. Just like, obviously, the postlude after the service.
Ausra: Yes, you finish the postlude and there is nobody left in the church. Everybody is having coffee.
Vidas: And if you are playing a fugue as a postlude, then voices are enter one by one, and people leave one by one, which is not true. Right?
Ausra: I think it’s nice that at least some people stay to listen the postlude and they applaud after that.
Vidas: I was just going to say that people do not actually leave one by one, but they tend to leave in droves. Excellent. Shall we wish Graham to keep creating?
Ausra: Sure! I think it’s a real gift if you can compose music, so just keep doing that.
Vidas: And to make your pieces available, because it’s really hard to get! You have to write an email to the composer and the composer has to write you back with the score. It’s obviously complicated to both the would-be-performer and to the composer. It should be frictionless. I suggested that he could upload it to Sheet Music Plus and he could sell those scores, but Graham wanted for people to have them for free, so why not upload them to IMSLP like Petrucci Music Library?
Ausra: Yes, I think that’s a great idea.
Vidas: And it would be free, available instantly for anyone.
Ausra: That way maybe more organists would get access to it and would perform it more often.
Vidas: Yes, for this, we really hope this will happen in 2021. And please send us more of your questions if you have about the composition process, about performance issues that you encounter in the works you play for perhaps, we would like to help you out. 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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