12!

Edited: September 30, 2019, 5:28 PM · As few of you may or may not know, I happen to play in a loose group of serious amateurs and semipros (all of them playing circles around me). We perform 2-3 concerts per year, mostly for fun, focusing on lesser known and seldom played pieces from almost all periods of western classical music. Infrastructure (including fingerfood and drinks in the aftershow networking area) is covered by a sponsor, the revenue goes to a caritative organization.

Our program for winter was fixed 6 months ago and consists of a relaxed mixture from baroque to viennese classic. Nothing spectacular, mostly "easy listening", as one might expect a few week before Christmas. Yesterday I received the program for May. Holy moly! Neither do I know whose idea this was, nor can I be sure if someone wasn't making me some out-of-season April fool.

The program is... a relaxed mixture of Berg, Wildgans and Apostel. Really great fun to listen, and the voices not super-hard to play as long as played solo, but it's really hard to describe my feelings without using vulgar vocabulary when it comes to the idea of ensemble playing. Sure, there's plenty of time for preparation, but never ever did I play an active role in dodecaphony! Might be I'd turn it into kakophony... Should I resign? Or give it a try? It's intriguing, but... am I that kind of super duper musician that could handle it?! Panic! Help!!

Anyone here with an idea what's going on and what kind of skillset one might need to get along with something like this? Will I have to dig into music theory? Or "just do it"? Is there even a chance of succeeding for a squib like me? Just feeling dead from the neck up at the moment... and afraid of being left behind...

Replies (14)

September 30, 2019, 5:36 PM · Really sleepless about that... I feel one really has to be bullet proof in holding his voice in something like that! Or am I wrong and everything falls into place as soon as the ears adjust to dodecaphonic music? Could it be enough to listen to a lot of Schoenberg etc to get into the groove...?
September 30, 2019, 6:24 PM · Listen to the pieces several times with the music in front of you before starting to dig into the notes. That can make a big difference in speed of learning.
September 30, 2019, 7:16 PM · Play alongside the recording. Great for speed-learning a piece.
September 30, 2019, 8:05 PM · I second Mary Ellen's suggestion - for me there is nothing more effective than listening thoroughly to the piece. Also, as suggested, if you look at your part while listening you can often hear it even if it is in the middle of the pack. I found that terrific for prep of the second violin part in quartets.

September 30, 2019, 8:05 PM · I second Mary Ellen's suggestion - for me there is nothing more effective than listening thoroughly to the piece. Also, as suggested, if you look at your part while listening you can often hear it even if it is in the middle of the pack. I found that terrific for prep of the second violin part in quartets.

September 30, 2019, 9:07 PM · dodeca-cacophony
October 1, 2019, 12:12 PM · Thanks - I'll try this for a week or two before thinking about resigning. At first sight, the (musically) most accessible part of the program seems to be Hans Erich Apostels Op. 45, the "Fischerhaus Serenade", so let's start with that one...
Edited: October 1, 2019, 3:11 PM · ... viola part, that's for sure... ;-)
October 2, 2019, 6:37 PM · I once sang in TESSARAKONTAphony! It was just a sing through, but I don't think it sounded too bad - Mind you, it wasn't QUITE avant-garde, though the composer is known to have taken one theme from Vaughan Williams in one of his other works.
Edited: October 3, 2019, 7:16 AM · Have you got any feedback from the rest of the group on these pieces?
Can you set up practise sessions with any of them ? There may be others with the same thoughts?
October 3, 2019, 7:13 AM · A few minutes ago I offered what may be a useful tip for this sort of situation in my response to Gordon Shumway in the Chromatic Studies thread.
Edited: October 3, 2019, 8:12 AM · Rosemary, opinions vary. Most of us are open to modern music as long as it doesn't drift off into what is considered as "atonal music". One of the violinists quit for that period, but that's it. Woodwind and brass aren't permanent "members" anyway, but "hired" from other amateur ensembles as needed. The biggest concern is that the program might shoo away the audience, and that even amongst the small portion of classical music lovers in our population, there might not be enough who are open for things like that. But let's give it a try.
Extra practice sessions or some kind of "pre-rehearsals" will not work. All of us have 40-60 hours daytime jobs, and since I'm rather on the 60 hrs end of the scale, I'm happy as a kid if I make it to the official rehearsals three time in a row, which is already an epic success - having practiced or not...

Trevor, I'll have a look at it, thanks!

October 3, 2019, 11:48 AM · The next step up (or down?)the ladder is of course microtonal music, not just the pieces where a composer inserts a quarter tone in one or two places, but the real thing as found in the works of Haba who specialised in this genre. In fact, Haba's music is surprisingly easy to listen to when played well, is melodic and certainly not atonal.

The bad news is that microtonal music needs an enormous amount of practice and a specialist teacher to get such intonation right.

October 4, 2019, 1:44 AM · Trevor, thanks for the warning. Since there vus still do much to learn for me in more traditional classical music, I'll leave this one to the "real" musicians! ;-)


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