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Tuesday, July 06, 2004
  Vingt-cinquieme ordre e) Les Ombres errantes
Francois Couperin
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 5 Track 25

Sensitive to scales, our composer may have heard this piece before it was written. The shadows in his title are uncomplicated musical lines that move with significant weight. They were in motion before he tossed them between the conflicting gravitational bodies of C minor and E-flat major. The then fashionable frills added on the page allow the plucky harpsichord to think itself capable of sustaining one pitch into harmony with another. After a novice observes Francois' spooky finale, the roving is likely to continue. Unmonitored and, perhaps, untrained improvisation may became a more varied terrain for these generally stepwise ghosts. Thus, Mr. Couperin's three shadows rove beyond the confines of the page.

Meaning, for Couperin, is in the direction of the scale. For instance, the bass line starts on mi so that the descending mi, re, do establishes the work's sense of inertia that is conducive to suspensions. These suspensions create the environment in which our thin characters plod up, down, or stay around the same note. In this way, Mr. Couperin provides us with a piece, though easy to follow, is not so easy to hum. The melody does not stay with us as much as the experience of wandering.

What I like about this tapestry of footsteps is that no line dominates the others for the length of the piece. Because of my training as a cellist, my ear is prejudiced to hear the bass line more than the others. But our talented composer lightens up on the bass enough to keep the listener's ears moving. 
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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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