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A Jarring Beauty

March 29, 2009

Piano music almost always grabs my attention.  People often talk about how beautiful an instrument it is, which I can’t disagree with it, but to me its beautiful in such a different way than the qualities I normally associate with beauty.  When piano music really gets into my head, every note is like a minor earthquake, impressing upon me whatever that it is saying. 

There are no peaceful lakes or frozen landscapes (too literal?) or public art or even ideas of human beauty.  And yet the instrument still can strike me in a way that other instruments can’t.

Yesterday on NPR’s Studio 360, there was a really great segment about one of the artisans who maintains pianos.  He also happens to be the brother of the host.  Its a great listen, especially the part where they visit the piano of film composer Marco Beltrami  (of 3:10 to Yuma), who keeps his piano tuned at an octave below the normal  (at around 7:00 minutes in).  Its gorgeous.  It also reminds me of music by Ryuichi Sakamoto.  Its out of tunenes immediately struck me of Harry Partch’s ‘extra notes’ in his instruments.

I also got in this week the Alexandre Tharaud album of Erik Satie’s music, and have essentially been listening to it every chance I get.  The Solo disc is great, but because I was unfamiliar a lot of the music on the Duos disc, I’ve been playing it over and over and trying to absorb as much as I can.  Words can’t describe the beauty of the opening piece for two pianos, which is why its music and not proper poetry.

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