Monday, 6 July 2015

The Sacrifice. . .

There is a silence where hath been no sound.  There is a silence where no sound may be in the cold grave under the deep deep sea - from Silence by Thomas Hood 

This quote from the poem Silence by Thomas Hood opens and closes the movie The Piano written and directed by Jane Campion.  The movie starred Holly Hunter, Sam Neill, Harvey Keitel and Anna Paquin.  

There was a time when I was as obsessed as Ada McGrath with playing the piano.  The Sacrifice by Michael Nyman has been one of my favourite piano instrumental pieces.  I have heard students attempt to play it as part of their solo performance pieces.

I haven't blogged about many instrumental pieces before but there is something oddly comforting in music where there are no words, because the listener is free to interpret what each phrase or motif is meant to depict, rather than rely on lyrics to dictate what it actually is.


When I think about the storyline of the film and how much sacrifice Ada had to endure,  to leave her native Scotland after being sold by her father into marriage to a man she never knew, never met, to the other side of the world, abandoning everything she knew, everything that felt familiar - except for her piano.

The piano composition itself lends itself to great expression by the performer with its subtle tempo changes, the exploration of the higher octaves of the piano contrasting the lower registers help to colour the piece.  The accented melody line is something that is the signature motif, or the signature way at least of how the motif is constructed.  There is a certain trickiness associated with being able to play even tempered oscillation patterns of accented notes in this way, so a high level of technical skills and musicianship is required to pull this piece off and perform it with the justice that it deserves with total accuracy and impassioned interpretation.

The gentle playing of the entire theme towards the end when it is slowed down conjures up images of more poignant scenes in the film.  You can even take those bars of music and align them with poignant scenes from your own life, your own home movie.  They highlight for me the bittersweet moments, the tragic moments and the fleeting happy moments that pepper our silent home movies in our minds.  The many moods of sacrifice that play out in our lives. . .

There is a silence where hath been no sound.  There is a silence where no sound may be in the cold grave under the deep deep sea - from Silence by Thomas Hood