Saturday, July 30, 2011

Baroque Ornamentation and Swearing

Having played a great number of baroque concerts and a reasonable number of recordings, I still do not consider myself an expert.  But having performed in the company of experts, I have learned to discern between authentic (attractive) ornamentation and laboured (unattractive) ornamentation both in my own playing and
in that of others.
And I hereby conclude that the ability to ornament successfully has many parallels between the world of colourful language aka swearing.
A successful swear has elements of invention and precise timing, surprise yet recognition of the rightness of the moment.  Violence is subsumed into art, grit is delivered with refinement, exuberance bursts forth in a flourish of the unexpected.
And just like a well-placed swear, good ornamentation required both practise, prior failure and ongoing bravery.  You have to have a pure heart and make repeated efforts before instinct is aligned with skill.  
If you merely follow all the rules and mechanically churn out trills and facile tierces coules (sorry, can’t spell that to save my life), it is like a teenaged boy monotonically swearing on his cell phone at the back of the street car (unattractive).  If you flip the rules to fit your ear and learn to invent on the run, trusting the instincts of your physical self, you will start to have a style and aptness that can bring calm or inspiration.  And sometimes a “mistake” turns into something so ornate and unbidden that you may startle yourself.
This is the nature of ornament, no?  

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