Saturday, February 18, 2006


Recently my friend Keith Kirchoff asked me what I thought of Chopin and I responded that he is one of those composers that I just like and that I don't think about why I like his work. This could be due to the fact that I associate my first memories of life with Chopin, where my father would play the piano and I would demand "dancing music" which was Chopin. But on musical terms I have been thinking through the fact the most of his output largely has the "Chopin sound" and that I consider that a fault in many modern composers. So I have been tossing the question around in my head and this AM as I listen to the second sonata and ballades I have figured out one key element of Chopin, the ringing. To my ears Chopin creates his dynamic tension by juxtaposing sonorities and indeed larger passages that take advantage of or work against the tendency of the piano to ring. I believe this tension and release is largely due to his observing the overtone series and/or working against it to build sonorities. While tonal harmony can lead to this in an incidental way, I hear a concerted effort in most Chopin to exploit this tendency. So while other composers also exploit this, I don't get the sense that it is as deliberate as with Chopin. I should submit that I know very little of his history other than his being a piano virtuoso of Polish origin who was alive from 1810-1849. My guess is that his using the ringing nature of the piano in a way that supports the overtone structure was largely based on intuition and not on scientific research and as I say, I don't know enough to say either way. The point though, is that however he got to this way of working, for my ear it defines his sound. Ciao


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