Thursday, 20 November 2008
I only just discovered this youtube video yesterday but was astounded by it. I don't interpret it as a satire on Palin - it's a musical exercise that could have been done on anyone, but Pailn was a good subject for it.
The pianist mimics her voice with their right hand and applies chords with the left hand - thus bringing out the inherent musicality to the spoken voice. This isn't actually a new idea, I remember one of my music lecturers doing this to a Woody Allen monologue about 10 years ago. Plus in the 1950s, Harry Partch mimicked the intonation of the spoken word with musical intruments.
What Partch did that this clip doesn't is use microtonal intonation, which is closer to the sound of spoken word. Basically, microtones are the little notes that you get inbetween the 12-tones on a common western scale. The 12-tone system, as I understand was developed by Pythagoras in ancient Greece and continues to dominate today - sadly. You could have 100 notes in an octave if you wanted, just with much smaller intervals than the semitone.
So what the pianist does here is approximate Palin's vocal pitch to the nearest note in the 12 tone scale. It's a brilliant rhythm and melody.