What I Learnt: La Mer Winter Intensive

What I Learnt: La Mer Winter Intensive

Our Editor, Jess Crowe, recalls her experience attending the MMASS Winter Intensive with Dr Roy Howat, held on Saturday 25th June.

 

What I Learnt: La Mer Winter Intensive

Our Editor, Jess Crowe, recalls her experience attending the MMASS Winter Intensive with Dr Roy Howat, held on Saturday 25th June.

 

It was eleven degrees in my bedroom when my alarm went off at 5.30 Saturday morning.

Eleven.

Degrees.

This was inconsiderate, bordering on rude. It snowed the day before in Ballarat though, so I suppose it wasn’t surprising. In what universe does someone willingly get out of warm comfy bed at 5.30 on a Saturday morning into eleven-degree air?

This one, apparently. And all because of Matthew Lorenzon’s comments about brioche. 

Full disclosure: I went to the Music Analysis Summer School when it first ran in late 2015, so I knew what to expect from anything Matthew had a hand in organising: that is, extreme awesomeness. But I had no idea who Dr Roy Howat was. Probably because when it comes to my major, musicology, I’m generally terrible.

BOY DID I LEARN

After braving black ice on the road driving to the train station, nearly slipping over twice walking to the platform, snoozing to Deadmau5 on the 6.12 train (look it works for me okay?), finally inhaling whatever largest warmest caffeine-based beverage I could find at 7.45, and awkwardly killing time for an hour, I got to Medley Hall and received a nametag – always a plus for someone like me who forgets names as soon as they’re told to her.

(there are probably some of you I’ve done my entire undergrad with whose names I don’t remember – it’s not you, it’s me, and more than anything it’s just sad, honestly)

There was more coffee. A good start.

And almonds. Also good.

A little after 9am, we got started. The focus of the day was Debussy, particularly a proportional analysis of La Mer. I love Debussy – French Impressionism is the bomb, so I was pretty pumped. Tired, but pumped. If I’d done any of the pre-reading (HA!) perhaps I would have seen it coming.

~*~*~*~ FIBONACCI NUMBERS ~*~*~*~

~*~*~*~ FIBONACCI NUMBERS EVERYWHERE ~*~*~*~

Dr Roy Howat lecturing several enthusiastic music nerds. That’s the back of my head right there, in the blue. No not the blue jacket. Come on people be serious. Image courtesy of Melbourne Music Analysis Summer School Facebook page.

Dr Roy Howat lecturing several enthusiastic music nerds. That’s the back of my head right there, in the blue. No not the blue jacket. Come on people be serious. Image courtesy of Melbourne Music Analysis Summer School Facebook page.

If you harbour a secret (or otherwise) passion for numbers, go read Dr Howat’s book Debussy in Proportion. Everything we spoke about is in there. It will blow your mind. 

As a non-practising pianist (I mean that so literally, I don’t play anymore because I can’t play anymore because I don’t practice), I still learnt more about playing Debussy, and even Ravel, in a couple of offhand comments from Roy than I possibly ever have. No offence to my fabulous previous piano teachers of course, but to be fair, he did write the book on it (The Art of French piano music). If you are an actual pianist, who actually physically touches a piano regularly, and who plays any French piano music, read this book. I can’t speak for our readers from other institutions, but it’s in the Melbourne University library catalogue. You have no excuse.

There were many more fantastic moments throughout the day – donuts, more coffee, delicious sea-themed chocolate chip biscuits, proximity to Lygon St for lunch…and yes more music stuff. Look, I get that I’m someone who is genuinely into analysis, and it’s not necessarily a topic for everyone. But even if you concentrate on performing, what we discussed had huge ramifications for the understanding, and therefore playing, of this kind of music – that’s what analysis does. There is something here for every type of musician. I cannot recommend this project enough; if you are even slightly interested in being a well-rounded muso, you just have to go to one of these. Who knows what they’ll cover next? Go like their Facebook page. Attend one of the sessions. Find out. There will probably be one later this year. We’ll probably plug it to remind you. Go to it. GO. DO IT. YOU WON’T REGRET IT.

Join us. There are pastries.