From the Ether
Certain pieces announce their intentions within the opening measures of music. Most of Beethoven's symphonies, for example. Mozart's Magic Flute. Even, I would argue, the prelude to Tristan and Isolde, or Steve Reich's Clapping Music. The initial "hello" contains the whole composition. Though musical development and departures unfold, (and in fact, the listener almost expects something unexpected) on subsequent hearings we knowingly recognize the entire work, in its distilled or condensed form, in those opening chords, rhythmic motifs, or outlined intervals.
Other music begins from the ether, with little suggestion of what lies ahead. Even after years of knowing and having performed a particular piece, one might say, dumbstruck, "Oh! It starts like that?" Every time I see that first line of Chopin's Second Ballade, for example, I do a double take. From such simplicity--a moment of minimalism on C, way before its time--the lullaby begins. The first phrase is almost enough--more than enough--to build a pleasant piece of Romantic parlor music. Yet not too many bars later, Chopin launches into a tirade, cuts short the lullaby, and lets the fun begin; the fine finger muscles of the technical pianist tell the ear of the voicing artist to move over, and we leave the parlor for the concert hall. Music literature offers numerous examples of such compositional design, of course, but for some reason the Ballade never--never--fails to tip me off my seat, whether I'm playing or listening to it.
People are like this, too, no? Some put it all out there (call it openness or honesty) from that first handshake, while others, a friend you've known for ten years maybe, can surprise the pants off you with an out-of-character action. I find both types equally likable and infinitely frustrating. I often want more from the obvious ones (surprise me! give me steak when I'm expecting chocolates!) but find that the outbursts of the more kept ones throw me off guard or make me feel I've been led on. Those are the rewards and challenges of socializing, I guess. So too with music: it takes all kinds, from the familiar to the freak, to make life fun.