May 06, 2009

Here in the Pianosphere: The Lost Music of James Welsch

Mr Mary & I have big plans for The Pianosphere. We spearheaded this department to showcase great pianospherists, like Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou, Liberian Congresswoman Malinda Jackson Parker, Italian Friar Brother Basil Frison, & onward towards the future. We are now conspiring, alongside glorifying these pianospheric outsiders, to offer the pianosphere our own contributions, & commission our comrades to contribute to the pianosphere, as well as our comrades' comrades (both ourselves, again, & outward.) 

There is already plenty in the archives, & tonight we will drag out the first sampling. Mr Danny Holt, about eight years ago, put on a concert at Hampshire College called The Lost Music of James Welsch - named after a series of piano pieces I had written as a teenager which were lost & found. Actually the original sketches were from a series of unfinished "etudes" to practice odd rhythms, I was writing for a friend who was a good pianist but couldn't count her way into a hippy drum circle. I was looking thru old scores a few weeks ago, & I found all these sketches again, most of them are sucking, but a few are gems - I found them a second time! Then, I realized I didn't have a copy of the recording Mr Holt made earlier this decade, & luckily he was able to dig it up. WITHOUT ANY MORE ADO:

I had forgotten that he had played so many of these little pieces as a suite, I had only remembered him doing the first couple, but he does:
I. Syncopation (Ragtime)
II. 5/4 Waltz
III. The Hemiola
IV. Dies Irae (3+2)
V. Dies Irae (2+3)
Of course, Mr Holt's groovy performances do great justice to these sketches. Those are the titles from the original "etudes", named after the rhythm it was meant to teach. A hemiola is when a meter is beat with different accents to imply another meter (like, if you're in 3/4, which has six eighth-notes, & the first & fourth eighth-notes are accented, making it sound like 6/8 time. It happens all the time in the finest music.) Dies Irae is a chant from the 13th century which is referenced all over classical music - the first eight notes of it are often heard, hinting at doom or just a gothic mood. It's famously used in the witch scene in Berlioz's Symphonie Fantasique, & it's all over The Nightmare Before Christmas ("Making Christmas") & Sweeney Todd. I'm not telling you why I evoked it, not once, but DOUBLY in "The Lost Music of James Welsch", that is for the great romantic artist & his critics to exegete. The sketch of the "Dies Irae (2+3)" I'm looking at ends differently then the last few seconds of that recording - I think Danny & I added an unfinished measure to imply the composer had somehow, perhaps violently, left off writing - a parody of J.S. Bach's Art of the Fugue, where the composer croaked mid-way thru writing the Contrapunctus XIV, & his son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach wrote in the score: "At the point where the composer introduces the name BACH (or in English notation, B-flat A C B-natural) in the countersubject to this fugue, the composer died."
Future contributions to the PIANOSPHERE will not end so badly! If you have anything to add, either a lead or an original, send it this way ~ (My e-mail is o [[at]]

Danny Holt is releasing a new CD soon, check his WEBSITE & for details & his MySpace for samples & more on that here anon.

No comments: