Ravel’s “Jeux D’eau”

As I go through tapes looking for more examples of birds singing with music, I often wade through a lot of old material. Whole boxes exist of practice sessions devoted to a particular piece of music. Such has been with the Ravel, which took a long time to learn playing only an hour here and there on the weekend. Actually the Ravel isn’t all that old – I still have some of it in my fingers, but I refuse to play it anymore. I had to move on. At some point soon, it will be impossible to play, as is the Goldberg, and I will look back on it and wonder how I ever managed to get through it.

Learning the Ravel was a challenge. It probably would have helped had I been 30 years younger with better technique, but I did not let these failings discourage me. For some reason the birds seemed to tolerate my pain reading through it. My sight-reading is such that I never read “through” – rather, I had to figure out a section, memorize it, and move on to the next chunk: a building-block process. In any event, the birds didn’t find much to sing along with, except for the budgies whose vocalizations move as rapidly as Ravel’s notes, so perhaps they were less silenced by the tendency to quickly abandon affiliation with a key. Not atonal by any means, but still a little too modern for a bird with a set song to chime in.

The music was a gift from the same person who left me to the birds. His mother was a pianist, and she had never managed to complete the piece. From her notations on some of the obscure notes in the higher register, I know she didn’t exactly read through it either. Such careful, slow going is not without setbacks, however. Long after I thought I’d figured out the notes, at least, I heard someone play it on the radio, and discovered one critical chord was absolutely wrong! I was off one note, which changed the whole feel of the piece. I had to practice that out of my fingers and ears for a week or two.

After listening to a lot of false starts, surprised to find a I’d made it through the whole thing, so that’s why it’s here.

Also a surprise, the picture below. I thought I came back with no pictures yesterday from the clouds and wind, but this shot of a juvenile Bald Eagle turned out rather impressionistic.

Juvenile Bald Eagle, Hennepin-Hopper Wildlife Area

4 thoughts on “Ravel’s “Jeux D’eau”

  1. Oh thank you, Linda! I thought I might have had a better version but the tape was distorted and I couldn’t figure out how to clean it up…maybe I’ll run across another suitable candidate at another date. But this kind of obsession will get me nowhere. The best thing about learning it was getting a deeper appreciation for Ravel’s gizz, his thought process…

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