Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Mark O'Connor: Pacific Ocean near San Diego, California
For years, I lived in a part of rural California teeming with avocado groves, citrus trees, and strawberry fields. My house was positioned at the top of a hill, and the view from my balcony was sweeping and inspiring. As I sat outside on my balcony one day, I noticed three distinct views (“vistas”): the desert in the East, the distant mountains in the North, and the beautiful, sparkling Pacific Ocean in the West. I imagined that each of these magnificent vistas represented distinct things – musical personalities, instruments, voices, social backgrounds, ways of life. But as my eyes relaxed and my primary vision began to blend with my peripheral, the three vistas merged into one cohesive panoramic view. All of a sudden, what seemed to be contrasting environments combined to form one unified landscape.

At the time, it struck me how relevant this “blending of the vistas” was to art itself. All artists, including musicians, come from different backgrounds, receive different training, and have unique gifts and personalities. We are all at different points in our artistic journeys. But ultimately, we all strive to elevate the spirit (mountains), stimulate the intellect (ocean), and strengthen the heart (desert). To me, Vistas is a musical reflection of this powerful bond between artists around the world.

Mark O'Connor: Desert Southwest
Vistas is a piece of American Classical music. Two different themes (the first in G Major, the second in B Minor) undergo considerable development, making the tune somewhat longer than many of the others in Book V. While the first theme is a clear melodic statement that experiences a variety of harmonic transpositions, the second theme is more of a textural exploration, and it features thumb strumming, muting, octave displacement, and temporal variation. Practicing Vistas is a great exercise in exploring many disparate yet unified sounds, techniques, and expressions within a single piece of music.

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