simple is not easy

In my post earlier today I spoke of a new piece of music I wrote this morning: simple, 4-measure-long repetitive bass line, a simple 1-measure pattern for the left hand, and a playful melody in the right hand. Did I mention the piece was written for organ? The feet do the bass line. It turns out that simple is not necessarily easy…

I had a practice session this afternoon for a wedding, so I brought my new piece along. I really needed to do this, since I am scheduled to play the piece on Sunday. Yeah, I know I’m doing it backwards: I first schedule me to play a piece that doesn’t yet exist, then I write the piece and scramble a bit learning it so I can do justice to the music! I thought I had it made this time. I deliberately stayed simple. But it turns out that fitting simple things together–they occur concurrently–results in a sum that is more complicated than the individual parts would suggest.

I suppose that, if I just wanted to slop my way through, it would be no big deal. But I wanted the piece to be expressive, and on an organ that means that articulation–whether a note is played short and crisp or smooth and connected to its neighbors–is real important.

So it turned out that my simple piece (less than and hour and a half to write almost 4 minutes of solo organ music)…wasn’t simple. I’ve known about that contradiction in other domains–a good children’s book or other art for children can be quite challenging to create. Writing an interesting piece for a beginning musician is hard to do–you don’t want to fall into cliche or mindless sound.

The piece sounds neat! (What else would I say?) It’s better than the mp3 I made from the notation file. I’m looking forward to another practice session tomorrow, as I still have a couple of coordination problems (one hand plays smoothly while the other plays crisply as the bass continues its relentless step – step – step), but I think I’ll be able to iron them out. I’ll play the piece as part of my wedding prelude (generally 30 minutes of music before the ceremony itself starts) so that its official premiere will go smoothly; I would like to work out any first-performance jitters as well as offer what I hope will be perceived as something special–assuming that anyone even notices!

As usual, it’s music to my ears…

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