Thursday, July 15, 2010


I went to a very good workshop at NPM today, on organ improvising. And I had a realization about 3/4 of the way through it. What he was explaining was the basic, (I'll call it for lack of a better word,) "American Protestant Improvisation." You play a hymn, and then you do cool things with it, but it still always sounds like the hymn. And people listening can always find the tune.

Then...contrast that to an amazing experience I had at the OTHER conference a few weeks ago, listening to an amazing organist improvise throughout a Tridentine Mass...the music never ended. (barely.) and it lifted your soul to heaven. There was no "theme," or hymn that it was based off of. (That I could immediately tell, at least.) Here's the TEN minute organ communion that absolutely made my week:

What a contrast. I guess that is improvising in the "french style." that of Langlais, even Messiaen. And that is...Catholic. That is what we use at Mass. The most holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where the music actually occurs *during* liturgical action.

I need to think more about this, but there is just something... different about that. And that is my goal in improvising. To be able to play like that. I suppose I need to study Langlais to do that. We will see if K will let me play Suite Medievale for my recital? :-)

1 comment:

Scelata said...

Dang, I realized this morning that yours was one of the blogs I've been forgetting to check in on since I reacquired internet access!

As someone who attended both CMAA and NPM events this year, (I no longer attend any NPM sindigs, and never did get to a national,) you are able to provide a good perspective.
My general impression is that the former functions more or less as a retreat and the latter as a trade show, (that's not to say I haven't attended very prayerful liturgies courtesy of NPM, but they are a bit too engaged in the cult of novelty.)
I hope you'll consider writing it up at greater length and posting over at MusicaSacra.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)