Friday, 8 February 2019

Invert your thinking

For many listeners, one section of Rachmaninov's  "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" stands out from the rest.

The rhapsody is written as a set of variations, and the 18th is the best known and most often played and recorded.

The attractiveness of the variation is due, in no small part, to the colourfully lush orchestration and the gently caressing interplay between piano and orchestra.

But another aspect contributing significantly to the variation's popularity is Rachmaninov's transformation of Paganini's theme: he inverts it.

The musical sensation can be likened to seeing an alpine mountain reflected in a lake: the inverted image adds a shimmering and magical symmetry to the scene:

The sensation can also be likened to the one aroused by looking at this:

We are immediately drawn to the lighter areas and the outline of the couple, but we begin to see something altogether different when we alter our focus to concentrate upon the darker areas. (What do you begin to see? The clue is on the label around the neck of the bottle.) As with the reflection of the mountain, the experience is again pleasantly engaging. 
Inverting our thinking is about turning our thinking upside down, sideways and inside out; it is about reversing our habitual ways of perceiving things.
What unexpected insights do you gain when you start to see negatives as positives? What happens when you hear the other side of the story? What happens when you concentrate upon those things that have been ignored? What happens when you begin at the end? What happens when you start at the bottom rather than the top? What happens when you work from the inside out or from the outside in?
What happens when you focus upon the edge rather than the centre of things?

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