Friday, December 19, 2014

Who let the bagpiper in here?

Finally, it's time to hear what made me want to spend three weeks writing about pastorales in the first place. A few months ago, I discovered a short set of pastorales by a Croation composer named Pintaric. I like variety; I like the unusual, some of the time; these were new to me, and they looked easy enough to ease my way through the Christmas season, given no time for advance practice during the summer this year with the organ console having been removed.

I should also mention that my grandmother was born in Croatia, and my father besides, though they are actually Austrian (long story; involves a little spat called WWII), so I was also interested in them from a heritage point of view.

The first thing I noticed about these little pieces is that they were all wrong! What happened to triple time? These were in four. What about that rocking rhythm, preferably with dots? Gone. And the drone? Well, it's there, but it doesn't sustain. It is repeated hypnotically in the bass, but not the pedals. In fact, there seems to be no pedal part at all. And tranquility? These are downright festive. I'll share the two more subdued ones today; on Monday you'll hear two that could pretty much pass for polkas.

Before we retroactively yank Mr. Pintaric's composer's license, perhaps we should do a rethink on the matter of the pastorale. That's what I did. And it dawned on me that I had been letting city folk do all the talking for the shepherds. Nice, artistic, profoundly moving, and/or idealized works of music all. But suppose these shepherds had little ipods to pass the time while they were up on the hills of Palestine back in the 1st century (and some daggone good cell towers). What would they be listening to? Not oratorios, I'm certain. No, I think polkas are a more likely musical symbol for a person that has to muddle through all week tending sheep and then goes home to party with his friends and watch football on the weekend. Now, as it happens, these two contestants are maybe a bit refined for all that. But there are two more to come. And then let the partying begin!

Pintaric: Pastorale no. in A
Pintaric: Pastorale no. 3 in Bb

If you feel the urge to party hartily, the final installment of the series can be found here!

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