Saturday, July 12, 2008

Heart and Soulytonality

You know you're a parent when Saturday morning calm is interrupted by the familiar, bouncing version of "Heart and Soul" that seems to follow "Chopsticks" (which comes after "The Knuckle Song") in the graded repertoire of songs kids pass among themselves. Well, the truth is I taught it to my mostly-violinist daughter, who loves experimenting with the piano - but it gets better. Although it's best known as a duo piece, she's taught herself to play both parts together, accomp in L.H. and melody in R.H. But it gets even better. She's now experimenting with playing the R.H. in various keys against the trusty old C Major I-vi-IV-V chords.

OK, I might have encouraged that idea, since I've been annoying friends and family with polytonal versions for years. In fact, I just allotted myself exactly one chance to toss a quick sample recording together. We travel from C Major all the way up to C Major. I wasn't at all warmed up, so the L.H. got a little tired at times, and it's pretty unmusical - just like the kids play it. Here it is, although I'm sure I'll feel the need to fix it up at some point. It's also now installed at #8 on the MMmusic page, right between Poulenc and Scriabin. Piano blogging rides again!

Three quick points:

1) After playing it this way for years, the polytonal versions don't sound at all odd to me. I'm not saying I don't notice relative degrees of dissonance, but all the keys sound "right." If I start to lose my moral center as well, I'll let you know.

2) This would be a great exercise for piano class students, to get their fingers to "think" in various keys. Of course, they should also switch up the L.H., which I was too lazy to do. We're debuting a new piano class for non-majors this year; I'm not teaching it, but wouldn't it be cool to hear this up and down the halls day after day? (Meanwhile, my family members are shaking their heads thinking, "this is the day in Michael's blogging career we hoped would never come, but it was inevitable.")

3) If you think I haven't already considered the possibility of using Shepard Tones to create an endlessly rising version of this, you haven't been paying much attention. [UPDATE (later that day): Mission accomplished.]

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