An Unending Flow of Glowing Sound
Fauré made a solo piano arrangement of the first movement of his “Dolly Suite” better known in its incarnation for piano four-hands. The glowing sound that is so easy for the two pianists to achieve with their control over at least four octaves at once, is very difficult to evoke and sustain for long in the solo piano arrangement, limited as it is to the pianist’s two hands.
At her lesson today, I wanted to show Rachael that even though one couldn’t be “all places at once” (or all octaves at once), there was nevertheless a way for creating an ongoing sound that is infused from all those octaves.
As an illustration I asked Rachael to put the right pedal down, leave it down, and then slowly play the notes of an extended E Major chord, starting with e1 in the bottom octave of the piano, then using both e2 and b2 in the next octave, and from then on proceeding in closed-spacing with e3, gs3, b3, e4, until gs4 (it could just as well have continued higher). After sounding the last note, the gs4, I asked her to wait a second or two, and then concentrate on what she heard coming out of the piano (the pedal still being depressed). After completing her examination of the sound, she could release the pedal at any time. Like a camera set to a prolonged exposure time while focused on an area in space in which there are objects moving about, what Rachael head was a stable, lasting, ‘large’, resonating, eight-note, overarching chord that spanned several octaves and derived its tone quality from all those octaves at once.
One noticeable quality of this sound was that it could be described as ‘glowing’. It glowed in a way not normally heard by the pianist when playing. I said to Rachael, here is a “model” for what you could hear coming out of the piano at all times. What we did was just to isolate it in time, but that potential is always there with every note we play. We may fail to “complete” it when we don’t take the time to accumulate it and then listen to it.
I called her attention to the fact that, in the order we did things, this glowing quality to the sound didn’t become obvious until a moment or two after completing the chord. This is because our habit is to listen to one note at a time when they are played sequentially and not concentrate on their overall effect. But the sound, the glowing sound, is always there, ready to speak back to you if you stop and listen. As you play each sound, almost pause and listen to listen for it to speak back to you. This requires a very active mind which can oscillate rapidly between “doing” or “making” sounds and, passively, “listening” to what was just “made”. The trick is to go back and forth between the two states.
If we see a picture that includes a circle, part of which has been cut off by one of the boundaries of the picture, but which, nonetheless complete in our mind. We complete the form. When we play piano, and especially this piece by Fauré, take any sounds that are part of a chord and complete the chord in your ear.
Afterwards, as Rachael played piece, I no longer heard bumps and zigzags between octave ranges. Nothing seemed to my ear to be missing or incomplete. There was a sustained glow to the overall sound