Brainwashing by Favourite Recordings
Brainwashing by favorite recordingsBradley Lehman wrote (October 20, 2003):
I wrote: < If one spends "years" listening to the music played with inaccurate proportions, i.e. in a beloved recording by a notably emphatic and willful interpreter (as Scherchen was), it's understandable that the false can begin to sound true: just through enough repetition. Psychologists who understand the process of brainwashing could explain that better than I. >
Incidentally, this same observation holds for the 25th variation of the Goldbergs, too. Those of us who first "learned" the piece under heavy influence of the Gould recordings have had some unlearning to do. (Yes, he continued to be wildly disproportionate there in 1981, no matter what he said about his goals of unifying the proportional tempos elsewhere in the piece.)
Aryeh Oron wrote (October 20, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I like the topic of your message.
The first two Bach LP's I acqiured, still in high school, were the Gould's Goldbergs (1955), and the Carlos' 'Switch On Bach'. While I was not so atrracted to the second, I played the first endless times. The result was that this rendition was so strongly engraved in my memory that I almost could not listen to any other renditon and enjoying it without doing unwillingly comparison to Gould's. Of course, each time my unavoidable conclusion was that Gould was unbeatable. I needed a strong rendition to really open my mind to other possiblities. I was lucky to find Rosen's recording, included in the 3-LP album of the late Keyborad works. Although Rosen's has become my favourite rendition of the GV and it is still so even today, it also did the good service of brainwashing the Gould. Later came Johansen, Hewitt...
Nessie Russell wrote (October 20, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] This brings up an interesting point. I was always taught never to study recordings of a piece until after I had learned it myself. I still follow this plan. Sure, I have heard all of the WTC, but I never really listen to a Prelude and Fugue until I have mastered it myself. Then I listen to as many recordings of other people doing it as I can. Often I pick up tips. Sometimes I find I have made a couple of errors. This way I don't run the risk of trying to copy someone else or as Brad pointed out think the eccentricities of another pianist is the way a piece is "supposed" to go.
It was not until I joined musical e-lists that I realized so many people listen to the recordings BEFORE they start to learn a piece.
Emily L. Ferguson wrote (October 20, 2003):
Nessie Russell wrote: < It was not until I joined musical e-lists that I realized so many people listen to the recordings BEFORE they start to learn a piece. >
And so many people listen to recordings because they know they'll never be good enough to play any of the pieces, or because they'll never play the instruments the pieces were composed for, or for a skillion other reasons of that sort.
I was the daughter of a piano teacher who spent 15 of the first 25 years of her life vainly trying to play the piano, hindered by poor small motor coordination. My father didn't believe in recordings. We went to the orchestra one Saturday a month and he played and taught all day and into the evening. There were only two kinds of music in my home - piano music and orchestral music. Choral music was at school and church.
So what happened to string quartets, and Lieder, and sonatas for all those instruments with piano accompaniment? They didn't exist. That was the whole story until I got to college.
So music is entirely by recording for me. I can't play anything because my fingers don't wiggle fast enough, and singing in my town is confined to amateurs so I've dropped out of that.
Yes, the first recording you listen to, if convincing to you, can color all subsequent experiences. And Gould '55 was extremely convincing in 1960 when I was about to finish high school and it became all the rage among my classmates.
It was still convincing in 1994 when it accompanied me up the coast of California, Oregon and Washington state on a photographic journey.
But I listen to the harpsichord now when I want to listen to Bach on a keyboard (unless it's organ music). So Gould '55 is an aberration, really. Quite a period piece, and very important to the revival of Bach and the movement which is now dominant in music performance, of understanding the context and playing in the style. And very convincing within it's own context, but totally unrepresentative of what the music really is.
The wonderful thing about all these old recordings that we love and that have driven us into Bach's world is that Bach's music has been so adaptable. It has been Swingled, and Mooged and Switched On and Klemperered and Scherchened and Walcha'd and Brandenburg Gated and Goulded and even Beetled and it still stands up convincingly.
Bob Henderson wrote (October 20, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] The first Gould GV, the Wendy/Walter Carlos LP and the Rosen three LP set still occupy valued places in my collection. And the Rosen Art of the Fugue is still a favorite! These along with the Richter Mass would constiturte an excellent introduction (albeit 1968) to Bach. We must be about the same age. A fine addiction.
Ehud Shiloni wrote (October 20, 2003):
[To Emily L. Ferguson] Loved your post, Emily. Keep on going strong! Cheers
Ehud Shiloni [Never played, sang or read a score....]
Bart O’Brien wrote (October 20, 2003):
Aryeh Oron wrote: < I was lucky to find Rosen's recording, included in the 3-LP album of the late Keyborad works. Although Rosen's has become my favourite rendition of the GV and it is still so even today, it also did the good service of brainwashing the Gould. >
Yeah, it's Rosen for me with the GV. I thought I was alone till now.
John Lewis Grant wrote (October 22, 2003):
[To Nessie Russell] Also, you may not much like the way a particular pianist plays a piece, and decide (mistakenly) not to even attempt it!