Friday, December 19, 2014

Sleigh Ride in 7/8 Time (The 12 Musings of Christmas #7)

We conclude our "Sleigh Ride" portion of "The 12 Musings of Christmas" with an arrangement I can only say I wish I'd created. John Eidsvoog's suave setting of the tune in 7/8 time glides along with such elegance that it hardly sounds off-kilter, at least as he plays it:

When a friend posted it on Facebook a few weeks back, I found it so irresistible that I ordered the sheet music right away (a bargain at $3.99). It is as delightful to play as it is to listen to, in part because EIdsvoog writes in a wonderfully pianistic way; it's not easy, but everything feels right and natural under the hands. (My biggest objection to much new music I encounter is that it seems to be written against the hands and the instrument. Writing for the piano is a very sophisticated art in itself.)

Since I'm advertising it as a pleasure to play, I thought it would be fun to try to record it myself. The arrangement is listed by the publisher as an "Early Advanced" solo, and it does fit the hands beautifully, but it's still full of traps, especially because the hands leap around a lot. I could really use more practice, and I haven't quite gotten into that relaxed groove in which Eidsvoog glides along, but perhaps my rendition is thus more neurotic. (It's hard in 7/8 not to get caught up in the feeling of falling forward!) I tried recording it first reading from my laptop and using a page-turning pedal, but I don't really know the notes well enough to read them when they're so small - so, I found a handy page-turner in the house, and got this done in the first take. There were a few takes that followed, but things didn't improve, so the video below is Take One, unedited. (I'm sure there's a Law Of Faking somewhere that says, "the first time is always best.") Not perfect, but proof that I've played it.

[Oh yeah, since I took a portrait-mode video and had some blank space on the edges, I decided to add a little running meter counter. If you'd prefer to view without the numbers, go here.]

For regular readers of the blog, the following will seem inevitable, but when I first followed that Facebook link a few weeks back, I ended up clicking over to the sheet music link in another tab. Turns out the purchase page starts the same video playing so, yes, I was suddenly hearing the arrangement mashed up against itself. And, yes, I liked it! I couldn't resist recreating that experience, though I cheated by starting the second recording right as the first section is ending in the other. (I always miss that effect now when I play it.) Sounds like this:

It becomes frenetically chaotic at some points (I think in part because the arrangement goes briefly into 5/8 right after the "second entry," so the downbeats don't align for awhile.) But there are some really fantastic harmonic clashes along the way, and those high hits starting around 1:20 are especially exciting. I can't help but think of the greatest 7/8 piece ever written.

Prokofiev. Piano. Precipitato. Pollini. Perfection.

Finally, in a fortuitous coincidence, Eidsvoog's arrangement in 7 lands on Day 7 of "The 12 Musings of Christmas." I didn't even plan it that way.

The 12 Musings of Christmas (so far...)
  1. Christmas Time is Here
  2. In Season
  3. Vertical Christmas Medley
  4. Trippin' with Chestnuts
  5. Sleigh Ride in a Fast Machine
  6. Sleigh Ride of the Valkyries
  7. Sleigh Ride in 7/8

1 comment:

eidco said...

Hi, Michael. I stumbled across your page and review quite by accident (it showed up in YouTube's analytics). Thanks for the great review, comments, and posting your performance. Very well done!

Merry Christmas,
John Eidsvoog