Interpreting Meaning

Added on by Greg Anderson.
I am a big Ravel fan and would like to say that I find your Ondine - as much as I can hear of it on this website - to be a very intelligent interpretation, the same goes for your considertions cocerning its sensuality, I read it in amazement and think it is about time somebody is as straight forward about it as you are. I am only through the first two pages of the piece myself, but am proud to have Jeux d'eau on my repertorie, I am certain you are familiar with the piece and not blind to the similarity between it and Ondine (Jeux d'eau is not exactly sensual, let's face it, but another genious way to make water become music) Your words about Ondine really helped me to understand the piece and I finally feel sufficiently armed to give it a try myself. Could you, shortly and in words, interpretate Jeux d'eau as well? What kind of question is that, you say. Well if nothing else, blame it on my rubbish english and pretty screwed up north european manners.
 - Kristian

Dear Kristian,

Thank you! I'm happy you found inspiration in my essay about Ravel's "Ondine."

I had played Gaspard de la nuit for several years before I published the essay on the first movement, and I spent just as long tweaking my translation of the poetry and thinking about its meaning. I agree with you; I think it's too bad pianists and audiences often ignore the piece's blatant sexuality.

That said, I've dabbled with Ravel's Jeux d'eux, but I haven't given the piece the same amount of consideration I've given to some of Ravel's other works. I'd rather not try to impress you with dazzling but unsubstantiated insight (that's called "B.S.").

Instead, I challenge you to think about the piece really hard. Not sort of hard, but really hard, with 100% focus. Toss the piano aside and study the score. Work metaphors -- everything (including notes and musical passages) has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Create a narrative -- make it an opera! Be open to new ideas. Go deep -- the deeper you go, the more likely you'll discover something valuable. Read scholarly analyses and then forget about what the research says. Lack judgment. Rely on gut instinct. When you're done, think about it all over again from a completely new perspective.

Music can bear unbridled power. (A recent performance I heard of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony sure did!). Don't stop at nice, or refined, or somewhat powerful. Make music mean something important, and then take it further.

- Greg (Nov. 3, 08)