Vertical Phrasing – Packaging Vertical Solar Systems
The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it,
can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.
~ Galileo Galilei
You will have noticed that Rachmaninoff neatly packages his sound levels into two parts: the red level, with its two supporting colors, and the royal blue level, with its five supporting colors. He then sub-divides the royal blue level into two parts, neatly divided at the division between the hands into the royal blue level supported by two voices and the dark green level supported by two voices. Each of these levels, in the practice room, needs to be isolated in order to develop differentiation of colors and balance of energy.
This is commonly referred to as the art of voicing, which sometimes translates in the interpreter’s mind as the painting of a chord in sound and color, but more often simply as playing the top note of a chord at a greater dynamic level than its downstairs neighbors. But what of the expressive meaning of voicing? And what of the remaining unvoiced notes? What of the energy potential of unlocking chords and other vertical realities? Is it possible to finitely define the meaning of a single moment in time?
Watch the Universe unfold in front of you.
Sit in the Now.
A chord, or any moment of single- or multi-layered sound, contains the complexities of an entire phrase, an entire universe.
Perhaps the terminology gets in our way. Organizing and shaping a horizontal line is called phrasing, a term of much greater nobility and import to my sensibilities than voicing. Yet the two are really quite similar, which is why I prefer to call the organizing and shaping of the vertical line — its colors, energies, dynamics, time dimensions, spatial dimensions, conflicting desires and directions — vertical phrasing. (And I suppose that renders phrasing horizontal voicing!) This at least hints at its potential complexities, while implying the movement and direction of energy through time, vertical and horizontal.
How does sound organize itself vertically in terms of energy?
In every vertical moment, the energy centers in a single note, what I call an Energy Pillar. There are then often secondary energy sources that revolve around it. In the first attack of the Prelude, for example, the red is the primary, positive energy source (Pillar) which balances against the other two voices, which are negative. However, the dark blue is the secondary energy source which on a smaller scale acts as a positive center balanced by the negative light purple. The light purple in turn belongs to the dark blue, and together they belong to the red. No need to comprehend this all at once, but it will come.
I imagine the negative energy revolving around and feeding off the positive energy, creating a solar system of energy — moons revolving around planets revolving around other planets revolving around the sun. Is it farfetched to believe that a single split-second vertical moment in time might invoke an entire Universe of energy relationships and meaning?
All of the universe it but a moment in time.
Horizontal energy, as we will see, works in exactly the same way, only sideways and over a longer period of time.
I even wonder whether in Einstein’s world, where time is relative and hidden dimensions of time and temporal meaning lurk in the shadows, the passage of time in the vertical dimension might even flow infinitely more slowly and potently than in our horizontal time reality. Is it possible that the vertical dimension might compete in importance and meaning with the horizontal dimension?
This much I know: If you allow yourself to believe in the existence of hidden, complex vertical realities at every moment of musical time, you will search them out and they will slowly reveal themselves to you.
Your discoveries will bestow exponential power, meaning and expression to your interpretations.