One evening I was sitting at the recital at my church of a colleague, a very creative organist, who played exclusively modern organ music. Harsh-sounding compositions changed with even more depressing sounds, the entire event was a test of my level of tolerance. I thought to myself "I had enough" and "is this the best modern organ music has to offer?" and "why is he still playing when the recital should have been long over?
Was it my fault, the organist's or the composer's that it didn't connect with me? Incidentally, I stayed in the church entirely out of politeness.
Modern organ music might seem quite odd for some listeners - strange melodies, irregular rhythms, sometimes unpredictable form, dissonant harmony and other features makes an organist's job of connecting to the people who hear you play even more tricky.
The thing is that modern organ music sometimes might lack the objective that was all-prevalent is earlier times. It doesn't have to be beautiful. It doesn't have to make you say things, like "I was enchanted" or "I was transported to another world because it reminded me of bliss."
Sometimes it does, but other times it makes you say things, like "This was interesting" or "I didn't expect it to end this way" or even "I'm glad it's over."
So what it takes for a listener (and an organist) to appreciate modern organ music?
It asks of you to have an open mind. To try things that perhaps you have never tried before. To go deeper than you ever dared to go. To cause a change to happen in a way you listen.
If you can, arm yourself with as broad music theory knowledge as possible. I mean explore the modes (5 note modes, 6 note modes, 7 note modes, 8 note modes, even 10 note modes), harmonies (chords with 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 notes), rhythms (quintuplets, septuplets, non retrogradable rhythms, additive rhythms, etc.).
And I have to say it gets easier with practice. If you listen to and play modern organ music regularly, your mind becomes more receptive to these sounds, your eyes and fingers become more accustomed to the strange accidentals, your feet will learn to move in advanced syncopations.
Free improvisation helps a lot. As you sit at the instrument, explore some of these things I've mentioned above and maybe, just maybe all of a sudden you will find yourself saying "I don't want this to end too soon".
What's your level of tolerance when it comes to modern organ music? Is it higher now than a few years ago? Or do you feel like I did during that all-modern music recital of my colleague?
What I'm working on:
Publishing a press-release for "The Little Mermaid". Writing "Concerning Modes". Continue writing fingering and pedaling for the Toccata by Charles-Marie Widor. Found out while on the phone with the composer Teisutis Makačinas that his new Festive Sonata-Symphony is dedicated to the 15th anniversary of the rebuilding of the great organ at Vilnius University St. John's church which I will premiere (together with improvisations) on October 17 (interview with the composer planned before that date). Starting editing Part 1 of Sonata No. 2 by Makačinas. Transposing hymn setting "Be Still My Soul". Practicing "Virtuoso Pianist" by Hanon in C Dorian mode (with from C with 2 flats). Playing Office No. 35 from “L’Orgue Mystique” by Charles Tournemire. Improvising in Dorian mode. Composing "A Storm". Reading "The Accidental Creative".
This blog cares about quintuplets. Forward it to your fellow rhythmic enthusiast.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.