November 29th, 2008
|08:57 am - John Tavener and Arvo Pärt|
Last night I went to Coventry cathedral with happytune to listen to a concert of a capella choral music in the Russian tradition by John Taverner and Arvo Pärt, and a 19th/20th century Russian composer Alexander Gretchaninoff (I don't know him at all). There were two choirs, the University of Warwick Chorus and the University of Warwick Chamber Choir (both amateur of course).
There is quite a narrow band of classical music that I really, really love, and it's mostly the fairly sparse and austere choral music. Taverner and Pärt are two of the composers I listen to most on my i-Pod. Furthermore this was embedded in a perfect venue: well, not just a perfect venue, but a venue which was enhanced by the bleak foggy evening. So the whole thing added up to a wonderful sensory experience for me.
It was freezing cold, even inside the cathedral it was pretty chilly, and the whole place is very austere stone, with little decoration. In the dark and fog the pillars loomed up into the gloom, giving the cathedral the sort of emotional presence I normally only associate with very old buildings.
I don't have any technical understanding of music, but this type of sound produces a strong physical feeling in me, which I compare to feeling of eating something very sweet, touching something cold and smooth, or sometimes a numb floaty feeling. I think it's some kind of neural right brain effect.
I was thinking when I woke up this morning that it might be because composers like Pärt don't emphasise a narrative going forward, so much as the present sound. I don't know if that makes sense. So it perhaps sends the linear left brain off to sleep or something.
happytune has also posted about the concert, with her musical insight, here.
In truth we were both too knackered, but in theory abrinsky and I would have loved that.
I'll try to look out for more things like that and post details in advance. I only just noticed it was on.
Did I sound whiny? It wasn't meant that way. And if you do notice more stuff like that I'd really appreciate hearing about it, thanks.
Christ, no, sorry, I'm commenting and running because my mum is coming to lunch and I'm trying to get the house into a semblance of non-squalor! Yes I am in a total panic right now, so I really shouldn't be trying to communicate online but I can't leave it alone.
Edited at 2008-11-29 10:21 am (UTC)
Hee! In some ways I'm glad my parents no longer visit.
Nothing to do with your communication: it was just that I reread my comment and thought it might have sounded off :-)
My officemate was going to that, because her sister is in the choir, and was sounding distinctly unenthused. It sounds wonderful, though. I love Coventry Cathedral.
More than most events I think this would be a matter of taste - it was chilly and the music was pretty austere - and it was more than two hours, so if that kind of music wasn't her cup of tea it might not be much fun. We bumped into a colleague who was having a great time: I thought her boyfriend looked a little strained.
I've sung both Pärt and Taverner, and it is very visceral music, strangely approachable. Demanding to sing the same way Roman capitals are demanding to calligraph: austere, clean lines that show every fault.
It sounds like a perfectly wonderful experience, the way you got to hear the music sung.
I have utterly no musical ability (happytune
says everyone can sing with the right training - I think that's optimistic) and I know there's an extra dimension I'm missing, but it was still wonderful
I would argue that everyone can learn to hear a tone and replicate it--that is, to carry a tune and stay in key. I ran across a fascinating study of perfect pitch among the Chinese (who have an astoundingly high incidence of this talent we in the west think of as miraculous) not because of any special ear construction, but because they speak a tonal language and learn early on about specificity of tone reproduction.
So yes, I believe that people can learn to sing, but a beautiful voice is a gift of nature. I'm just not sure where along that continuum of nature-nurture actual musicianship falls.