By Music Director Ben Makino
Get a sneak peek into Ben's summer in this latter half of his two part post, How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Missed the first part? Check it out here.
In between all of these small and large projects
I managed to get some reading done, perhaps most notably the recent Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan
Swafford. After reading Robert Gutman’s Mozart:
A Cultural Biography a year ago, I wanted to dedicate more time to learning
about the lives and the contemporary cultures of the composers whose work I
spend a great deal of my time thinking about.
It may seem
counterintuitive to some, but as students we spend little time learning about
the lives of composers, using what little time a university education grants to
gather as much information about the most important works and larger cultural
and stylistic trends. I tend to pick general themes for my reading each
season–2013-14 was dedicated largely to poetry, including some very long form
pieces, and this year will be dedicated mostly to building a much deeper
understanding of the lives of certain composers and the various trends of the
18th and 19th centuries in Europe.
Unlike most of
our colleagues, pianists have the fortune, or misfortune, of not having to
think of tuning as we perform, yet I
had always been fascinated by the sometimes tortured relationship between what a composer writes
on a sheet of manuscript and the real difficulties of executing those ideas as sound and in tune. A number of years ago I was talking to a friend, an
oboist, about how he thinks about tuning, and he referred me to Ross W.
Duffin’s How Equal Temperament Ruined
Harmony (And Why You Should Care). Only this summer, spurred by interest in
the microtonal recordings made by Aron at Microfest, I finally “picked up” a
copy (via Amazon). I zipped through it in about a day. Hungry for even more
information, I got in touch with local musicological treasure Ken Kreitner, who
along with fellow treasure Janet Page led me one late morning to Bruce Haynes’ History of Performing Pitch, cleverly
subtitled The Story of “A”. I’m still reading on the subject, and if you
were to stop by my office you would find on my desk a copy of an article titled "Dynamic Tonality: Extending the Framework
of Tonality into the 21st Century," which I would be happy to share with
I made a bit more
progress in a reading project that is a lot more long-term: Umberto Eco’s Kant and the Platypus, which I bought as
a gift for my mother based on its title and theme. At the time I knew nothing
about the author, but have since developed what perhaps amounts to only a
dilettantish interest in his work, but enough of one that when I have some real
mental space available I will be willing to try to wrestle my brain into the
shape of that of a true semiotician!
I hope all of you have had an equally interesting
summer, filled with collaboration, enrichment and friendship that I have been
lucky enough to have had. It looks as though I may be writing a few more of
these little essays (in truest sense of the word) throughout the year. I must
admit that summarizing it all in this fashion has brought it into focus a bit,
so I’ll look forward to the next time I am asked to submit!
Want to replicate Ben's summer reading? Here's his complete list.