Adornos

I had a revelation about adornos, stemming from a class about musicality. We hadn’t discussed adornos, but after the class I was suddenly aware of the places where I do and do not embellish.

My most common adornos are little toe taps. I love them: They are simple movements that express little points in the music that feel important to me. But I don’t throw them in everywhere. Prior to this class, I hadn’t really thought explicitly about where I do and do not embellish with these taps (or anything else). I just put them where I felt they should go in the music.

How do I know where they fit? In this class, we listened to the same song performed by Canaro and by D’Arienzo. We listened to the smooth quality of Canaro’s version, versus the very precise (and short) beats of D’Arienzo. And suddenly it made sense. When the quality of the step is precise and short, there is a lot of space in between steps. We collect. We have a free leg. And we can use that free leg to play around. With an orchestra like Canaro, our weight shifts flow into each other more and don’t leave those open spaces for embellishments.

Those general characterizations don’t create hard and fast rules, but it does clarify what it takes for an adorno to fit in properly. It explains one reason why an adorno might feel rushed or excessive. I enjoy being able to take these things that I feel and understanding how they work. On top of that, it makes me feel a little braver about experimenting with more complicated adornos.

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