It's been awhile since I have written anything. Been busy...training for the Boston Marathon, working...etc..etc...But I have not been taking a break from listening to music. If anything, I have probably been listening to more music than usual. But the hectic pace of life has taken a toll on my writing...or so I told myself. But on one of the many dark and cold evenings by myself out on the road running I came to realize that my lack of writing isn't due to a lack of time. That's just an excuse. Rather, it's a lack of confidence and commitment.Over thinking. Second-guessing. Laziness. Creative fatigue.
I started writing this blog in February of 2014...over four years ago now. Writing is a great passion of mine...especially writing about classical music. But I reached a point early this year when I started to wonder if what I am doing here really matters. Ideas for topics to write about seemed harder to come by. I started to question whether I wanted to continue writing.
I strayed from the central tenant I established for myself on day one...this is for ME. Who is my audience? I am. I drifted away from this realization. I certainly want you and others to read what I write. But I have to write for ME so that YOU will connect to what I have to share. I strayed away from this understanding and I developed a creative paralysis...wondering what to write and for whom?
All of this hit me the other day while I was listening to a piece of music I first heard sometime in the 1970's and have always loved...the Serenade for Strings in C Major by Tchaikovsky. It was at the beginning of the third movement marked Larghetto elegiaco that I had a moment of clarity that restored my sense of purpose. It is a simple phrase...four voices. Just quarter notes and eighth notes. Simple...elegant. Perfect. It was composed in 1880 along with another famous work, the 1812 Overture. PIT said in a letter, "I have written two long works very rapidly: A Festival Overture for the Exhibition, and a Serenade in four movements for string orchestra. The overture will be very noisy. I wrote it without much warmth of enthusiasm; therefore it has no great artistic value. The Serenade, on the contrary, I wrote from an inward impulse; I felt it, and venture to hope that this work is not without artistic qualities."
The entire Serenade is great...all four movements. But the third movement stands out to me as the most special. The opening chord is voiced as such; D (basses and cellos) G (violas) B (violas) E (first violins). From there the upper strings ascend and the lower strings descend. What's going on here, musically speaking? To get the answer, I asked my friend and musical theory expert, Dr. Reynold Simpson from the School of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He took a look at the score and and issued this analysis of the introduction of the third movement: "The short answer is that the chord is a ii7 chord in the third inversion (the seventh of the chord is in the bass.) But the passage is a bit deceptive because there's not a cadence to the tonic (D major) until the end of the 5th phrase. So the ear tries to hear it as a minor v7of A minor, then later as the minor iv of B minor. It is only after the fifth cadence that the strong cadence to D major clears up the tonal organization of this movement's opening."
Thank you Dr. Simpson.
It is a beautiful phrase, and despite the theoretical complexity, to the ear, it is simple and beautiful.
So I am back, and ready to write and share my thoughts with you because I am reminded that I am really talking to myself.