Saturday, May 29, 2010


Listening to just about every piece that the universe has produced that might contrast with Beethoven’s Opus 101 and Scriabin’s 9th Sonata in preparation for music school auditions. During said effort I ran across Mozart’s a minor sonata. Nathan kindly printed it out for me in UB (at the Peace Corps office – yes, I am that cheap) and brought it back to Bayankhongor.

While I am a fan of the outer movements, it’s really the second movement (the slow movement) that appeals most to me. I have happy memories of playing parts of the second movement during the offering at church on several occasions. It's the main theme that get’s me: a simple arpeggiated ascent followed by a step-wise winding down, finally resolving after a simple and heart-wrenching suspension.

If some or all of that description didn’t make sense we can either (a) blame it on my loss of correct music theory vocabulary after a 3-4 year separation from the likes of Duckett and Boubel or (b) forget about it because only the suspension is important here.

So, suspensions. When you come to the end of a phrase (at least in most music…um…at least in most music before 1900) the composer usually closes on a “good” sounding chord, something that sounds “natural” or “normal”. The suspensions in Mozart’s second movement come right before this “good” chord: the note right before is just a tiny step above what your ear might expect to hear. This causes a certain amount of tension (likely even more so back in Mozart’s day). The tension lasts until the “good” chord comes and resolves the “discord”.

When I was playing through the piece I felt like I could just “sit” on that suspension all day long before finally letting it settle into the resolution. I think I played it about 40 times in a row. Felt so right and appropriate.

Yesterday I checked my email after coming back from the capital and our Close of Service Conference, all the news and necessary replies, all the information to double check and the paperwork to submit threw my brain into a tizzy, or tension if you will. Resolution upon arrival home?