Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Train of Thought

We hear train whistles all the time. There’s a level crossing about 4 blocks away from our house, and each train’s unique blast sounds a chord that could be plotted on a piece of music paper. The Concertmaster Series shows have been known to be graced by a train whistle once in a while. As often as I can, I notice the “spelling” of the chords, as if to plot the “Norfolk Southern progression.”

Samuel Barber’s overture to The School for Scandal starts with a funky D Major chord with an added sharp 5. I don’t know how to explain this other than to say play these notes simultaneously on a piano: D, F#, A and B♭. There’s a train that comes through every couple months that blows this exact chord, it’s uncanny. I’ve been waiting for years to play the Barber just because it’s a gorgeous, clever, uplifting piece, and I will get my wish this Thursday and Friday at 7:30.

There’s a Beatles song entitled I Want to Tell You, it features some of the most out-of-tune harmonies you could ever hope to hear, so laughable that they are charming. At the end of every chorus, they sing “I’ve got tiiiiiiime...” It’s a first-inversion A Major chord, except the C# and the E sort of gravitate towards each other. This is a common whistle-tone chord that I have heard in other cities. When I hear it, I’m thinking “I’ve got time,” unless, of course, it’s the whistle of my train leaving. (This has actually happened to me, in Greenville, SC, where I was catching a train to attend an audition in DC). We won’t actually be performing that song this week, but...

Gershwin’s An American in Paris starts out in the streets of Paris with car horns0p------=0 (I swear, my cat just typed that...) There are three of them that the percussion section wields, loud klaxon horns that have a substantial technical requirement. Squeezing those bulbs is tricky; thank goodness they don’t have to be driving taxis around while they do it. But seriously folks, the Gershwin is a goldmine of rich orchestration and jazzy, feel-good content that will leave you humming its tunes for days.

Lucas Richman’s brand new Concerto for Piano and Orchestra: In Truth awaits us at rehearsal today like that big huge gift under the Christmas tree that everyone, especially piano soloist Jeffrey Beigel, wants to unwrap. I’ll try to add a few lines about that anon, but this is a pretty busy week and I have a train to catch...

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