Tuesday, March 23, 2004

This is why I have an RSS feed for my comments...

John Arpin, a pianist whose Joplin recordings I blogged about back in November, seems to have found my site and left me a very interesting comment. That's pretty cool. Here's what he had to say:
Hi Graham! Just found your site. Interesting reading. Glad you got my 4-disc set of the Joplin. Sorry I played Bethena too slow for your taste. I feel that the melody is so lovely that I want to linger with it. My feeling is that he really didn't have dancers in mind, as is evidenced by his subtitle "A Concert Waltz". But, in the end, that's what making music is all about. It certainly would be boring for every artist to take every composition and play them all the same way. Further, I believe that authentic performances of all the rags of that era need not be renderings using only the notes written on sheet music scores. Many ragtime players in that era could not read music and therefore it would be foolish to be critical of their approach. A lot of these players would hear someone play a particular piece, hear the melody and play in their very individual way. A lot of the sheet music in that era was also arranged so that the average parlor pianist could achieve an acceptable performance. Many times John Stark would admonish Joseph Lamb for writing his pieces in keys Stark considered difficult in which to play. Lamb stuck to his guns and refused to change them, as he full well knew that they wouldn't sound quite the same. Musicians will know what I mean by the foregoing. As long as the pianist doesn't use devices (contemporary chords and licks) that don't belong to the era, then my feeling is that it is fine to extemporize. My approach has always been to state the section as written and on the repeat add some notes always within the style of the era. Rifkin's approach is purely classical, and that is his philosophy of how the rags should be played. Zimmerman plays differently. Hyman displays his usual class with just a hint of jazz. And in an album called "The Joy Of Joplin" played by Marcus Roberts - there is an approach which is totally invalid for the era. I could go on and on and I have, but I think that musicians who study the style closely will find that there is indeed room for judicious use of improvisation in playing rags. Those who disagree are generally those who won't accept that ragtime was and is a forerunner of jazz or unfortunately don't have the creative tools to improvise, so end up reading what is written. There are thousands who can read and play rags in this manner, and I salute and encourage them. For those who can bring something personal, staying faithful to the era, to arrangements geared to the "average parlor pianist", it is time to salute them as well. Thanks for your patience and keep the banner waving. Good luck with your Swipesy Cakewalk!!!
John Arpin
Now that I come to think of it, I was actually playing piano this evening, at about the same time he was writing this. I haven't played very much at all for the last couple months, and tonight was the first time in a while that my playing felt reasonably fun and musical. This is not the same as sounding good, of course, or being in practice, but it was definitely a nice place to be in for a while. I must have been picking up on some vibes or something. :-)

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