Album Release

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Two Tunes

‘Tis Autumn with Cy Todd, concert in Biot chez Terry, October 24, 2010

Two tunes here. Both written in the 40’s. Both inspired by autumn. Each in a totally different mood (heartbreaking vs. cheerful). Both lovable. Both lovely on the harp.
Les Feuilles Mortes/ Autumn Leaves
French lyrics by Jacques Prévert, English lyrics by Johnny Mercer, Music by Joseph Kosma
The falling leaves drift by the window 
The autumn leaves of red and gold 
I see your lips, the summer kisses 
The sun-burned hands I used to hold 
Since you went away the days grow long 
And soon I'll hear old winter's song 
But I miss you most of all my darling 
When autumn leaves start to fall 
Oh! je voudrais tant que tu te souviennes
Des jours heureux où nous étions amis
En ce temps-là la vie était plus belle,
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu'aujourd'hui
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié...
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi
Et le vent du nord les emporte
Dans la nuit froide de l'oubli.
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié
La chanson que tu me chantais.
C'est une chanson qui nous ressemble
Toi, tu m'aimais et je t'aimais
Et nous vivions tous deux ensemble
Toi qui m'aimais, moi qui t'aimais
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s'aiment
Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit
Et la mer efface sur le sable
Les pas des amants désunis.
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi
Mais mon amour silencieux et fidèle
Sourit toujours et remercie la vie
Je t'aimais tant, tu étais si jolie,
Comment veux-tu que je t'oublie?
En ce temps-là, la vie était plus belle
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu'aujourd'hui
Tu étais ma plus douce amie
Mais je n'ai que faire des regrets
Et la chanson que tu chantais
Toujours, toujours je l'entendrai!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
‘Tis Autumn by Henry Nemo
Old Father time checked, so there'd be no doubt;
Called on the North wind to come on out,
Then cupped his hands so proudly to shout,
"La-di-dah di-dah-di-dum, 'tis autumn!"
Trees say they're tired, they've born too much fruit;
Charmed on the wayside, there's no dispute.
Now shedding leaves, they don't give a hoot -
La-di-dah di-dah-di-dum, 'tis autumn!
Then the birds got together to chirp about the weather
After makin' their decision, in birdie-like precision,
Turned about, and made a beeline to the south.
My holding you close really is no crime -
Ask the birds and the trees and old Father Time.
It's just to help the mercury climb.
La-di-dah di-dah-di-dum, 'tis autumn.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This past weekend, my friend Terry hosted me in concert at her lovely home. It was so nice to try out some of these pieces I’ve been working on. Terry and another friend, Cy, sang Les Feuilles Mortes and ‘Tis Autumn. Several people shared poetry about Autumn. 
Most of the guests were native English-speakers from various parts of the planet. All of them had a different regard for Autumn... sad, colorful, cheery, or depressing, etc. That’s what I’m finding for each of the Autumn pieces- Autumn to one composer means something very different to another. Which makes this project interesting.... 
To Mr./Mrs. Composer: What does Autumn sound like to you? How would you express Autumn through the medium of music?’s a scientific-like research and dissection. But for fun, and definitely not sterile- I get to dirty my hands in my own interpretation of each composition.
It’s a coordination of:
Art = “The expression or application of human skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
Autumn = “The third season of the year, when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves fall, in the Northern Hemisphere from September to November and in the Southern Hemisphere from March to May.”
Therefore, my confirmed hypothesis at this juncture is: um.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ce Que Chante la Pluie D’Automne in Front of the Prefecture

Voila, my little Carte de Sejour
The good news: I came out victorious at the Prefecture: I now have my carte de sejour (visa). Hallelujah! 
More good news: I was given another opportunity to ponder Ce Que Chante La Pluie D’Automne the other morning (see previous post). This time, it was before sunrise, in line with several others as we waited for the Prefecture to open its doors. 
Mention “Prefecture” to any American in France (actually, any French person for that matter) and they will shake their head or roll their eyes. The Prefecture. They will then proceed with their latest episode or favorite story about this institution. It’s among the list of “things I like about France the least” for most foreigners, including me, which is a pity... the Prefecture is the face of France. 
It’s a typical example of French administration. Logic is totally overlooked. 
And I guess I’ve reached a new level in French proficiency... I yelled at a stranger in French. It was one of the ladies behind the glass in Accueil 3; she wouldn’t listen to my question. She was continuing on with her raised eyebrows and puckered lips as she was going through her normal spiel about how it wouldn’t be possible to process my papers, and I exploded. I felt better afterward, but I lost my privilege to receive a number, wait in line more, and see someone who actually processes the visas. 
So I was back the next morning, which was drier and less unpleasant. And the most important thing: I’m now legit in France and can work like the rest of them. Work where? Not sure yet.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ce Que Chante la Pluie D’Automne by Marcel Tournier

Next up on Autumn’s Greatest Hits for the Harp....
Ce Que Chante la Pluie D’Automne, Lied Op. 49 by Marcel Tournier (1879-1951)
Published in 1947, written for Thérèse Hansen, who was the harp professor at the Conservatory in Reims at the time. (All I know so far about Thérèse Hansen is that she was still teaching in Reims in the 60s. Her sister Renée married Pierre Jamet. Still searching for info on her...)
I have never heard this piece performed, and have found only one recording... Jutta Zoff on the albums “Pure Joy” and “Harp: Greatest Works.”
A raw translation comes out to be: “What the autumn rain sings” (thanks to my personal French explainer next to me on the couch). Not too be confused with “Those that sing in the autumn rain” or “Those that sing the autumn rain.” 
No. It’s the song of the autumn rain.
Things I hear within this piece:
Steady rhythm of single drops of rain 
Sheets of rain 
The depth of a wet storm-- rain drops at arm’s length and the echo of thunder in the distance
I’ve been working on this piece for months now, and it seemed like a bucket of odd notes up until last week when I was able to finally play the piece at tempo. Quarter note= 100. Anything less doesn’t make sense. “Ohhh.” 
For my birthday this year, I got a fishing pole and gear. And thanks to a friend’s invitation to stay in a “cabin” near Castellane, Francois and I (and Cash of course) ventured up last weekend fully equipped with a skillet and lemons. It was so beautiful up there- crisp air, mushrooms galore, the smell of smoking chimneys, red, orange, yellow, green leaves, cloudy skies. Great fishing environment. 
On the second day, the clouds turned to rain, which stunk for fishing (COLD, miserable) but great for thinking about Ce Que Chante la Pluie D’Automne. Music can convey a message, a feeling, a  story, or a thing. In this case, in my opinion, it conveys a thing. Like an artist and his still life painting of fruit. You step back and say- THAT is FRUIT. Indeed. Beautiful. 
Same here. THAT is AUTUMN RAIN. Indeed. Nothing evocative. I can step back and admire its raw beauty.
Marcel Lucien Tournier was a Paris-based harpist, composer, and teacher... the student of Alphonse Hasselmans and mentor to many significant French harpists. His compositions were directed mainly towards solo harp, and his life fell smack dab in the middle of the impressionist movement that was happening in Classical music in Europe. Apart from a handful of pieces that weren’t give title of a specific image or scene, his music is just that -- images and scenes.
One last note: I know weird stuff can happen with opus numbers, and I may be over speculating here, but I can’t find a Tournier Op. number greater than this one- 49... could this be the last piece that he wrote? Inspired during the “Autumn” of his life, perhaps? Interesting interesting interesting.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

L’Automne by Isaac Albéniz

Alright! Let’s get this going- blog number one on the subject of Autumn pieces written or transcribed for the harp...
This piece was among my least favorite considerations to learn, and sure enough: it’s turned out to be one of my current favorites:
“L’Automne Op. 201” by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) 
from Extrait De Album of Miniatures (Les Saisons) 
Written for piano in 1893 
Transcribed by Henriette Renié (1875-1956)
This piece is rarely performed or recorded, even on piano. There is another more popular work by Albéniz entitled “L’Automne- Valse.” Not to be confused- the “Valse” is lengthy and sweet. The one I’m living with is short and to the point- a real “miniature.” 31 short measures.
31 measures and 71 pedal changes. Oooh. It’s like playing Tetris- The puzzle-pieces (notes and pedals) are moving quickly towards you, and you have to place them “just so” before the pieces start to stack up all over the place and cause disaster. It’s an addictive game, I must say.
I’m enjoying my time with this piece because it evokes the busyness of Autumn rather than focusing on its sadness. I hear the movement of the air that stirs the trees and the leaves, the movement of people with their harvest, and the movement of animals as they prepare for winter. This movement is still melancholy, but there’s an excitement and purpose to it. 
Why all the pedal changes? It’s heavily chromatic- almost as if the leaves fall to the ground one half-step at a time.
I have been listening to a couple recordings of this piece on piano. Renié has taken a lot of liberty in adding spurts of pres de la table and harmonics. The result: even more dimension and color. 
Albéniz wrote L’Automne in London, from what I can read online. I wonder what he was inspired by as he wrote this. I wonder if he lived in a flat in the center of the city, or in the suburbs where the trees in his garden were shedding their leaves. I wonder if he composed next to a window. I wonder if the window was open. 
Then I wonder why Renié chose to transcribe it. So many chromatic challenges and pedal changes- it’s typical of her work. She seems to be slightly masochistic in this regard. 
Whatever the situation- I’m thankful for this transcription. It demonstrates the harps broad capabilities and textures and makes me smile. 
Ending with a petite haiku by Tiyler Durden...
Autumn Leaf
Leaf floats on the breeze
floating on the autumn wind
will you settle down?