Characterizing Music

“It needs to be like an Italian opera!” he said as he flailed his arms with his eyes sparkling with the slight tint of a madman. “Think of the drama, the over exaggeration, the different characters! Like here, maybe this is like (he started to play the measure) they’re at a fancy party but then (he slid into the slur with a sly grin) someone pulls a prank! And then here, they go back to being posh, then ha ha ha (he punctured each ‘ha’ with a note from the descending phrase), Mozart is restating his authority! It’s all a story, a drama, an opera! Do you see it, Ashley?”

I looked at sheet music marked with three different highlighters and all of a sudden, each note spoke to me of perhaps a proud countess or a maidservant tricking the chef. And then when I played the music, I didn’t have to think about phrasing; all it took was the image of frilly powdered opera characters and my notes changed to match.

With this new mindset, each piece, phrase, and note came to life, sparkling with energy and stories to tell. And here I was, thinking that music gave me all it had to offer.


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