Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Why is jazz ignored in the search for new audiences?
For the past seventeen years my listening room has contained a piano. It is a large room, and the piano was in an area well away from the listening area for my high end audio system. However, a recent rearrangement meant the removal of the piano, and the change in the sound of the audio system was marked. Which is not surprising, because even an upright piano offers many possibilities for sympathetic vibrations. Sympathetic resonances from passive strings add the tone colour to instruments including the sitar, while the use of extra, unstruck strings to enrich piano tone was developed by Blüthner as Aliquot scaling and adopted by Faziola and Steinway as duplex scaling. Wise heads including Hazrat Inayat Khan and Jonathan Harvey have spoken of the importance of vibrations in music and beyond. The arcane science of Aliquot and duplex stringing does show how little we understand about the DNA of music - the sound - and it highlights the perils of digitally slicing and dicing into music unsympathetic zeros and noughts. It also poses the koan of what is the sound of the Hammerklavier Sonata recorded by a pianist with no piano in the studio?
Bill Cunliffe and his trio recorded their 2001 album Live at Bernie's direct to disc at Bernie Grundman's mastering facility in Los Angeles. (The digital file used for the CD/SACD releases was made in parallel). For the sessions Bill Cunliffe used a nine foot Hamburg Steinway signed by illustrious pianists including notable Rachmaninov interpreter Ruth Laredo. That Hamburg Steinway - sympathetic resonances and all - can be heard in magnificent voice in the moving solo rendition of John Lennon's Imagine that closes the album.
Trained in classical composition, Bill Cunliffe's output includes a piano concerto. Among the other tracks on Live at Bernie's are jazz takes on Samuel Barber's Four Excursions and, difficult to believe, a beautiful riff on the theme from the second movement of a piano concerto by one of Benjamin Britten's teachers, John Ireland. If all that isn't enough, Bill Cunliffe's Satisfaction album has a free transcription of the slow movement from Rachmaninov's Second Symphony. Jacques Loussier's 'play Bach' albums have sold more than six million copies and introduced millions to the wonder that is classical music. Sympathetic jazz treatments are an ideal entry point into classical music, particularly in an age of short form mobile listening. New audiences are the name of the game, yet classical music insists that balloons and mobile phones are the way to win new listeners. While you figure that one out I will be contributing two more post before taking a break from blogging and going in search of yet more sympathetic resonances.
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