Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Quasi Una Fantasia

Musicians have been writing music notation for hundreds of years.

But in addition to “lines and dots” almost every music manuscript—from simple lead sheets to symphonic scores—contains words and phrases designed to convey to the performer how the music should be performed and also something of the emotional impact the composer intended to elicit from listeners.

Musical directions are typically in Italian or Latin and can be straightforward instructions for how fast or slow to play—words like presto or adagio—to more involved phrases like, “diminuendo poi subito fortissimo”—conveying the request to play more restrained, softly and then, quickly, become bold and louder. [That one’s under “poi.”]

My favorite such musical direction is, quasi una fantasia.

Traditionally the phrase is used on an instrumental score to indicate that the piece should be played freely, the musicians should try to convey the feeling of a fantasy. Like a fantasy. Fantasia.

I don’t think I’ve ever played anything well enough, lightly enough, relaxed enough, to convey the feeling of a fantasy.

Someday I will.

Not today. But I will play something today.

[You may have to crank your volume a little to hear the click-track and amplifier. I’ll get better setting mixing levels for these asides, I promise.]

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