Performance Practices Goes REALLY Mainstream

Jonathan Bellman

So I’m picking up some sliced turkey at the Safeway deli counter.  The conversation usually goes this way: (1) the counter person asks me what I would like, (2) I place my order, and there is some chitchat about this variety vs. that variety, whether I want cheese or not, and perhaps whether I’d like a sample or some salads also, and then (3) “So, how’s your day been going for you?”  So, today, just at the cue for (3), the counter person, a young man I did not recognize, asked—without greeting me by name, or letting on that he knew anything about me other than my current interest in a half-pound of sliced hickory-smoked turkey: “In the Mozart clarinet concerto, if I see four whole notes in a row, is that a sign to improvise and fill in, or what?”

WELL.  Without asking who he was (a side issue, at that point), I put down my basket and explained: the figuration is set up beforehand, you need to assume Mozart was using a kind of compositional shorthand, fill in the lines with appropriate passagework using the notated notes as terminus points in each direction, and so on.  He nodded, said it probably should be done in the right style—right; of course—and I offered to look over anything he came up with.For all I know, he might have been set up by a roommate to surprise me, or something like that—an affectionate prank.  I don’t know, though.  All I can say at the moment is that it was a hell of an invigorating conversation to have at the end of a pretty fun day; my editor at Oxford sent me an E-Mail saying she’s seen the book and it’s really beautiful…

So, how’s YOUR day been going for you?

About jonathanbellman

Professor of Music History and Literature and Head of Academic Studies in Music at the University of Northern Colorado. Author, *The _Style Hongrois_ in the Music of Western Europe* (Northeastern University Press, 1993), *A Short Guide to Writing About Music* (2e, Longman, 2008), *Chopin's Polish Ballade: Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom* (Oxford University Press, 2010), Editor, *The Exotic in Western Music* (Northeastern University Press, 1998), author of bunches of articles and reviews and so on. Likes to play the piano, the mandolin, and even guitar sometimes. A. M. and Jo Winchester Distinguished Scholar at UNC, 2011.
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5 Responses to Performance Practices Goes REALLY Mainstream

  1. David Cavlovic says:

    I did similar once years back in the 90’s when I had long hair down to my waist. It was summer, I was waring t-shirt and cutoffs, and seated next to me in the Subway was a vocal coach I knew, who didn’t recognize me, since she had only seen me in my “civvies” look when I was at the CBC. She was studying a vocal score of Don Giovanni and was at Zerlina’s Act II Aria. I quietly started singing “Batti, batti, o bel Masetto”, and she did the best double-take ever! Finally, she recognized me.
    Looks, and even where you work, can be deceiving.

  2. Karl Henning says:

    Of course, here in Boston you can’t throw a brick without hitting a wind player who works in a delicatessen.
    Cheers,
    ~Karl

  3. David Cavlovic says:

    Oh, you’re a musicologist, are you? Which restaurant?

  4. Rebecca says:

    I thought everyone knew that clarinet players love hickory-smoked turkey. Completely reasonable assumption on his part… 😉

  5. Heather says:

    @David, I can’t resist wishing that the vocal coach had hummed back, “Vedrai, carino”: You’ll see, dear boy… that “Batti batti” is in Act I 😉

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