Last week I wrote about unaccompanied solos and how even one person can make harmony when the music is right. Today the music focuses on duets.
There are many ways to make music with more than one performer: two of the same instrument (the work for two violas), two different but complimentary instruments (piano and vibraphone), or two people playing the same instrument (one guitar four hands).
One instrument, four hands is a fairly common compositional technique. Pianists love to play four hands on the same keyboard and there are many pieces written for this duet combination. The guitar “keyboard” is quite a bit smaller than the piano’s, nevertheless guitarists have also taken up the challenge to play four hands (or even six hands) on the same instrument.
What is unique about the duet below (Tico Tico) is the creativity and skill that the two performers demonstrate.
Not content to simply each play their own part, they have created an arrangement where they also play each other’s parts, and they play a single part, together. The result is remarkable.
Imagine driving a car with a partner; one person on the steering wheel, gas and the clutch and the other person on the stick shift. Not a big deal . . . probably some of you tried this in high school! Now imagine one person on the steering wheel and the clutch and the other person on the gas and the stick shift. The level of complexity and collaboration is a bit mind-boggling. There would probably be some lurching and stalling as you work out your strategies with your partner. You would have to talk it through, learn the other’s breathing and movements, pay attention to how your actions link together and learn to work as one.
The Siqueira Lima Duo demonstrate this level of exceptional expertise, collaboration and connection in their performance. The most amazing part is when they play a single line together (in the video at 1:04 and again at 1:19) – he plucking the strings and she playing the run of notes. The precision and synchronicity of the playing is magnificent.
They have gone well beyond an understanding of their own part in the music. They have willingly committed to learning the part of the other, and to playing it with the same skill and dedication that they play their own. Then, they have gone even further, to learn how to play a single melody, together – combining their skills into a seamless expression of beauty. And they do it all with such joy!
Learning to play our own part is the first step. Developing the skill to play our own part well is critically important. But giving ourselves to the music of the ‘other’, learning their language and their song until we know it by heart – that is how we begin to make beautiful music together.
Michael Tree and Marina Thibeault
This is fun. If you haven’t had enough of the Frozen sound track yet . . .