Hearing Double: Recycling Piano Repertoire
Exploring a Week's Worth of Quotation, Variation and Suggestion
Monday, July 25, 2011
The practice of musical quotation has always been a part of the music-making tradition. Sometimes it’s the artist’s way of acknowledging his or her admiration for a composer, or just a mere infatuation with a specific theme or passage. At times it is of a practical nature—conjuring up a distinguishing event or character within the mind of the listener.
How do we feel when we hear a tune we’re familiar with in another work? Does it diminish the value of the new piece? Is it a sign that the composer's imagination is lacking?
Many consider writing a unique and fresh theme only a portion of making music, that in making art what matters most is what the artist does with his or her material. What’s important is whether the composer has what it takes to give a familiar theme a fresh start, and to imagine it leading a different life. It is somewhat similar to encountering a familiar character from a novel or a movie in different work. We know him well, but we are eager to learn what trouble he is currently up to.
The excitement of encountering a musical quotation lies in the discovery of where that familiar tune leads. Does it unexpectedly pop out of a peculiar texture and surprise us, or is it secretly floating beneath the new ideas, surfacing, only at times, from the unfamiliar twists and turns of the music.
All this week, we highlight music that embraces the technique of borrowed material, whether by means of direct quotation or thematic variation. If you have your own composer-within-a-composer piano pieces to suggest, leave them in the comments section below and we'll share them later on this week.