Thursday, May 26, 2011

On listening to recordings

My wife took a video of the Mozart performance, and I watched it the next morning. All the mistakes I remembered were there, plus a few other ones too. But that's not what struck me. What surprised me was the sound, especially my intonation. It was terrible! A sustained tenor F4 at the end of the cadenza, a note I'd milked for impact, was incredibly painfully flat. Not the impact I was looking for. But it wasn't just one note or two: every bar, starting with the opening statement, had a few notes which were only vague approximations of the right pitch, or which did such wonky things over the duration of the note that you'd be hard pressed to describe them as simply sharp or flat. I didn't remember being that bad while I was playing, I thought I'd sounded fine. And I've been listening to lots of recordings of myself recently, so it's not the novelty of hearing myself. Was I good while practicing but bad at the show, or have I somehow been deluding myself that I was close to okay? Kind of a shock, really. Searching for something positive to think, all I could find was, "Well, at least there's something basic I can improve on! No worries that I've peaked yet!" I chatted with my wife about it, and she helpfully pointed out that I sing out of tune too, so maybe it's connected with that.

Later I watched it again, while trying to prepare the file for uploading. Maybe I was ready for it, but this time the intonation didn't bother me. I could still hear that it wasn't right, but somehow it didn't seem as severe. Weird. This stuff seems like it should be absolute, but in terms of how it gets perceived, nothing is absolute.

Here's a plot (using Melodyne) of that last bad F. Yeah, 27 cents is pretty flat. Worse is that the big preparatory open F before it is sharp, so you've got an octave leap which is a full quarter tone out. Maybe pain is the only rational response, and all else is delusion.

Here's the whole thing, in case you'd like to hear it for yourself. A year of work.

  Mozart Bassoon Concerto Allegro by TFox17

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