Sunday was my violin teacher's Ensemble Recital. That means we all got to play in duets, trios, etc. The first part of the evening was spent listening to the younger students play. The pieces were quite nice, but because the violin is an instrument that you create your own tones on, it was a little painful listening to the Anna Magdalena Notebook by Bach in three separate keys all at once. >.<
Then came the second half of the performance. This was the time for the older students to "shine" as my teacher put it. I was in the middle of the second half, so let me explain my piece before jumping in.
My ensemble piece was a series of Bartok duets. Bela Bartok, for those of you who were wondering, was a Hungarian (I believe) composer from the 1940s who traveled Eastern Europe collecting folk songs and arranging them into duets for two violins and no accompaniment. That "no accompaniment" bit is important, but so is the folk songs. See, Western music has a very distinct tonality and musicality to it. As we grow up, we are conditioned to think that some patterns of tones aren't musical. The Middle East has a different musicality, as does Africa and Asia. Even particular countries have distinct sounds - Indian music can be easily differentiated from Japanese. What is considered musical in Asia may not be in African or European traditions, but because we recognize them as 'foreign' musicalities, we accept them as melodic.
Not so with Eastern European music. It's not the same as Western European music, but it isn't different enough to be 'foreign'. Every once in a while, you can hear a touch of Asian or Middle Eastern, but it's not different enough to be recognized as musical from somewhere else. This explains why a lot of students really hate Bartok - they don't think his music sounds like music, and if it does, it certainly isn't nice sounding.
So there I was, sitting on the side as the other older students played. First up: Moussorgsky. Then Mozart. Oh, look, a Bach! Then there was Vivaldi. Those are all either Western composers or Russian (and Moussorgsky's Romantic music sounds quite a bit like other Western Romantic composers). At this point, I'm getting a little nervous. The other pieces have piano accompaniment. The other pieces have lush, full sounds that we like. They were harmonic, not dissonant. I glanced at my sheet music. In two measures, my teacher (who played the other violin part) and I had only four notes: E, D sharp, D natural, and C natural - sometimes at the same time. If you wanted to play something incredibly dissonant and mush-like, I could think of no better note sequence.
I listened again. Their pieces sounded hard. Mine sound simple, but the fingering is killer at times (especially the Bagpipes Variation >.<).
Yeah, I kind of psyched myself out before going up there. But it turns out, I did fine. A couple of unintentional grace notes in Bagpipes Variation, but nothing serious.