Rufus meets Maurice Ravel

March 20, 2007

[Rufus, takes a break from composing his opera, and watching Fellini’s SATYRICON the screen freezes on the face of the young, brown hair, big-eyed gay boy, whose face slowly grows and fills the entire 50 inch flat screen display. Rufus bolts, knowing this is not in the movie. “Hello?” The face on the screen slowly changes from color to color until it becomes a negative image. And then the face slowly morphs into the face of a 34-year old Maurice Ravel, world famous French composer. The entire conversation was in French, and this translation is courtesy of Rosemary Brown.]

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MR: Hello Rufus.

RW: (Startled) Who are you? You look very familiar.

MR: I am Maurice Ravel at your age. [34]

RW: Ah yes, Hector told me to expect you. He said that you would continue with my composition lessons. Very pleased to meet you sir.

MR: Please call me Maurice–not the English pronunciation “moh-rus” but the French, “mo-rees” with the accent on “rees.”

RW: Alright, Maurice, I can’t tell you what a relief it is being rid of that fag basher Ives. What are you going to teach me today?

MR: I don’t think you need teaching at all, you are fine just the way you are.

RW: (blushing) Ah c’mon, I’m nowhere near you in my craft.

MR: True.

RW: Hey, you didn’t have to agree quite so quickly.

MR: I really have very little interest in teaching, much less cloning or imparting my own musical language to another composer. Other composers need to be who they are. So, you are who you are, and that is just fine.

RW: Teach me.

MR: No.

RW: TEACH ME.

MR: No! [long pause] Alright, but just a little.

RW: (Turns his eyes to the ceiling, lets out a sigh, grabs a pencil and lights a cigarette) Ok, ready.

MR: I have just finished a new piano piece, “Tombeau de Couperin.” It is just what you need to study in terms of letting your piano technique continue to evolve. Those early songs of yours like “The Money Song” and “The Bela Song” have an attractive sophistication that your later piano accompaniments don’t. I know, you’ve been focusing on your VOICE. Your voice will fade as you age, but your piano technique can serve you well right up to the end. You’ve been favoring the “guitar-piano” style where your accompaniments are akin to guitar strumming. Fine for a while, but I want more.

I’d like for you to compose a set of piano preludes, each in a different character. Start with a Book I, a set of 12. I’d like you to study the following pieces, and procure several different performances:

  1. Chopin: Preludes Op.28
  2. Debussy: Complete Preludes
  3. Debussy: Complete Etudes
  4. Scriabin: Complete Preludes
  5. Messaien: Catalogue d’oiseaux

I’ll give you a year to do it. I’ll pop in from time to time when I see that you’ve finished one.

RW: For solo piano right?

MR: Yes.

RW: This sounds like a great project, and something that will distract me from the opera.

MR: Well it’s late here, and I need to get going so I can have my walk in the park.

RW: This late?

MR: But of course.

RW: Oh, duhh. Got it. Have a nice cruise Maurice.

MR: Good luck on the piece.

RW: Good luck on your walk!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

free2create March 26, 2007 at 11:33 am

Hi Roger,
I actually found your blog as I was looking for blog posts relating to Peter Sellars (the magnificent), but was delighted to discover a fellow classical musician who loves Rufus. Fascinating stuff! I’ve been infatuated with his music for a few years now and enjoyed reading some of your analyses. For me, his masterpiece is “Dinner at Eight”, but there are so many others I love also.

Hyperufusensitive August 25, 2008 at 4:37 am

“Those early songs of yours like “The Money Song” and “The Bela Song” have an attractive sophistication that your later piano accompaniments don’t.” Couldn’t agree more, go Maurice! I sooo love the piano on those pieces and I do believe no one wants the next album to be a real ‘just voice and piano’ album more than me… Can’t even bear to listen to RTS anymore 🙁

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