Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fugue State

Gypsy Jean and I went to Seattle yesterday to spend money and go to Benaroya Hall for a Grand Sing Along with the Seattle Symphony Chorus. It was not exactly the experience we expected. Firstly, the Chorus was excellent, as usual. Secondly, about 40% of the seats were empty which I had never seen before and lastly the Watjen Concert Organ at the Hall was used to great effect to instill the atmosphere of the Solstice Season. But I had never heard a fugue before--except by Dr. Phibes and by Davy Jones at unrelated events.
Adeste Fidelis in fugue was played in a solo performance by the Hall's resident organist, Joseph Adam, a man of impeccable credentials & massive and diverse experience.
If you've never heard a fugue you'll want to read up on it first, otherwise you'll look at the person next to you and say 'is this a mistake?'
Not at all, a fugue is a contrapuntal (look it up)it is reputed to be the most fully developed procedure of imitative counterpoint. To a neophyte it evokes dark childhood memories of Vincent Price as the madman at the keyboard. It is discordant and abrasive and mostly minor key. When heard unexpectedly it grabs you by the brain, spins you around and thumps you to the floor then jerks you up and shakes you, growling and screaming, until nausea arises, your eyes roll back in your head and all your points of reference are lost in the angry mists. To top this off we were in box seats 2 floors above the orchestra, clutching our seats and wondering if this kind of musical assault could trigger an earthquake. It didn't and the concert ended traditionally with the Alleluia Chorus from Handel's 'Messiah'.
On the whole a memorable experience but beware of fugues--they've been known to trigger flight and amnesia.

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