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CLASSICAL  April 2005

CLASSICAL April 2005

Subject:

Re: Taking Five with Dohnanyi, Tchaikovsky, ...

From:

Alastair Scott <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 2 Apr 2005 07:55:52 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (43 lines)

Rick Mabry wrote:

>But I wonder if it could really be the case that a "rural" Hungarian
>tune was so rhytmically "pent-up".  I don't know much about these
>"Ruralia", except what is in the liner notes, that they are "based on
>traditional Hungarian melodies." Of course, "based on" leaves lots of
>room for maneuver, but I read that Dohnanyi was pretty conservative, so
>maybe they were actually inspired by some traditional tunes in
>five-beat meters.  Any guesses?  Does anyone know other examples?
>
>My own guess is that the inspiration was something in six beats,
>shrunk to five, as is occasionally done.  E.g..  take triplets of the
>form quarter/eighth // eighth/eighth/eighth and shrink the quarter to
>an eighth.  (How does one write music in ASCII text?) Perhaps a
>Dohnanyi expert on the list knows the answer.
>
>It also got me wondering when the earliest surviving odd-time signatures
>appeared.  Anyone have some early classical favorites, say, pre-1900?
>Tchaikovsky's symphony number 6 has a "waltz" in 5/4 (second movement),
>for instance.

Time signatures, like dynamics and, sometimes, even pitches, in normal
musical notation are often only a rough approximation of what was actually
heard.  Bartok's notebooks of music recorded in Hungary, Slovakia, etc.,
for example, are stuffed with annotations to that effect; the changing
beat from bar to bar - as well as the 5s and 7s - even in "simple" works
such as Mikrokosmos and the 44 Duos is often about the best that could
be done.

Folk-inspired music has such time signatures used when the author is at
least attempting to impart authenticity; for example, Rimsky-Korsakov's
operas have 5/4, 7/4 and even 11/4 turning up frequently, and these were
written before 1900.

You also forget about Ives, who evidently wrote exactly what he heard
and was less interested in accommodating the musician.  I remember being
stunned on first seeing an Ives score - The Housatonic at Stockbridge -
which had a 4/4 beat which was entirely notional.  The subdivision of
the beat - with triplets, fifths, ninths and tenths and beamed notes
spanning the barline - is too complex to describe here, and that sort
of thing was being worked in the 1890s!

Alastair

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