Thursday, September 8, 2016

The One Minute Rule

It's not a rule exactly. When I was an undergraduate and had a spare hour and didn't need to rush to a practice room to frantically learn a part, I would go to the listening library--all LPs back then--and pick out a stack of records. Now, of course, I didn't have time to listen to more than one or two of them. So I got in the habit of listening to the first minute and if nothing grabbed me, then I would take it off and put on the next one. This is how I discovered Drumming by Steve Reich. I was reminded of this by reading how one reader uses the same rule about the first sentence in deciding whether to read escapist fiction--if the first sentence doesn't grab her, she just moves on. Now classical music is not escapist fiction, but if you want to survey a whole area of repertoire that you are unfamiliar with, this isn't a bad way to start. In fact, I think I did exactly this with some British composers way back.

So let's pick some YouTube clips and listen to the first minute and see if it grabs us. What unfamiliar repertoire shall we take up? How about the polka?

Here is my methodology: go to YouTube and type in "polka" followed by a single letter. I started with "a". Your milage may vary because I was doing it within Blogger Dashboard. This is the first thing that came up:

That's a Finnish a cappella vocal quartet singing a polka. Actually, not too bad, but by the one minute mark you have probably heard all of the musical material. So on to the next "polka" followed by the letter "b":

That is the Polka in B flat major by Antonín Dvořák that somehow manages to make 2/4 meter sound oddly like something else from time to time.

Ok, now "polka" followed by "c":

Now that's my kind of polka! Meaning that it sounds a lot like polkas I have heard in the past. This is the Polka in C for Two Harps by Jacques Press, performed by Christina Braga, Elizabeth Volpé Bligh, Gianetta Baril, Judy Loman and Ricardo Medeiros on August 3, 2012 at the Canadian International Summer Harp Institute (CISHI), Pyatt Hall, VSO School of Music. That stands for "Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music."

Onward! Now "polka" followed by "d":

This is a French polka: "C'est une polka de l 'Aveyron.
C'est l'une des danses présentées par Lo Reviscol de Saint-Nauphary, à la Fête des danses de Montauban, le 6 octobre 2013." Montaubon is in the Somme in northern France.

How about "polka" followed by "e":

That was Lady Barbara e Chicco who are apparently Italian. The piece is "la polka delle fise."

Let's just do one more: "polka" followed by "f":

This is the Vilna Polka in F by Millenia who are, apparently an "Edmonton Ukranian Folk and Party Band."

Polka is pretty big in Canada.

So there you have it, a survey of the polka in under ten minutes from YouTube, the greatest resource in music education ever.

One of the nice things about polka performances is that there is almost no danger of anyone twerking!

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