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#2070233 - 04/24/13 09:26 PM What's so bad about Islamey?  
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It seems to be commonly thought of as vulgar or lacking in musical worth. Is it? Why? Some people are preconditioned to dislike it even if they've never heard it and have never seen the score. Why?

To fans of the piece: what do you like about it? How do you defend it to its many detractors, or do you bother? Is it just a question of taste, or is there something more going on?

Are there other pieces in standard piano repertoire that are so polarizing?

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#2070241 - 04/24/13 09:47 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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I wouldn't say I'm a fan but I do find it interesting. It's not something I would listen to on my own or learn, but when it's on the radio, I listen through it rather than turning it off. Kinda' luke warm.


Best regards,

Deborah
#2070249 - 04/24/13 10:12 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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Goomer,

You mention the people who are "preconditioned to dislike it even if they've never heard it", and you address the people who are "fans of the piece".

Don't forget the rest of us: the ones who know the piece, and hate it. I find it without substance and in your face-- an unfortunate combination.

-J


Beethoven op.110, Chopin op.27/2, Liszt Vallée d'Obermann
#2070271 - 04/24/13 10:35 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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My only criticsm of Islamey is I find it a little repetitious. Otherwise I quite like it. I don't think there's any common agreement among PW posters about this piece. Even if there is it would represent too small a number of people(a very high percentage of posts is done by a very small number of posters) to be of any significance.

I don't see much difference conceptually between Islamey and a piece like a Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody except that most of the Liszt Rhapsodies are a little better at achieving the same goal.

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#2070273 - 04/24/13 10:38 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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Originally Posted by beet31425
Goomer,

You mention the people who are "preconditioned to dislike it even if they've never heard it", and you address the people who are "fans of the piece".

Don't forget the rest of us: the ones who know the piece, and hate it. I find it without substance and in your face-- an unfortunate combination.

-J

I meant to address the rest of you at the start! smile

Originally Posted by Goomer Piles
It seems to be commonly thought of as vulgar or lacking in musical worth. Is it? Why?

I know some people feel as you do about some of Liszt's works, for example, but that's a controversial thing to say because Liszt is a top-tier composer. Is Islamey more easily scorned because Balakirev is not one?

p.s. Posted before I saw pianoloverus mention Liszt.

Last edited by Goomer Piles; 04/24/13 10:41 PM. Reason: p.s.
#2070274 - 04/24/13 10:39 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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double post

Last edited by pianoloverus; 04/24/13 10:48 PM.
#2070276 - 04/24/13 10:43 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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Yes, I see that you find it repetitious, ... repetitious, ...

#2070284 - 04/24/13 10:47 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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I don't think it's a bad piece at all. It's not a masterpiece/staple in my opinion, but I think it's a perfectly fine and fun piece.

#2070286 - 04/24/13 10:50 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Orange Soda King]  
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Originally Posted by Orange Soda King
I don't think it's a bad piece at all. It's not a masterpiece/staple in my opinion, but I think it's a perfectly fine and fun piece.

If it were easier, it would be a great piece. The problem is that it's so difficult and really isn't worth the effort you put in to learn it, unless you have superb technique (which many do nowadays grin ).


Regards,

Polyphonist
#2070291 - 04/24/13 10:57 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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My one criticism of Islamey is that it is repetitious and has an ugly melody. I mean, my two criticisms of Islamey is that it is repetitious, has an ugly melody, and an equally ugly counter melody. I mean, my three criticisms of Islamey is ... Seriously, I have hated the piece for years before I ever heard it mentioned and I'm shocked and angered when anyone enjoys it.

#2070295 - 04/24/13 11:00 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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HAHAHAHAhahahaha...hahaha...ha..

Hilarious.

(Not.)


Regards,

Polyphonist
#2070296 - 04/24/13 11:01 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Damon]  
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Originally Posted by Damon
My one criticism of Islamey is that it is repetitious and has an ugly melody.....

It has a "melody"? grin

90% serious, despite the smiley.

I mean, I know that it goes "da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da....." but I never thought of that as a melody.

#2070304 - 04/24/13 11:09 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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While I agree the first part isn't the greatest melody, it gives a percussive feel that is interesting. I find the slower middle section quite beautiful. Definitely not a masterpiece, but worth a listen when played well.

Last edited by didyougethathing; 04/24/13 11:09 PM.
#2070308 - 04/24/13 11:14 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: didyougethathing]  
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Originally Posted by didyougethathing
....it gives a percussive feel that is interesting....

I don't particularly like that kind of music, and even when I do, there are other composers and pieces that do it much better and more interestingly. Without trying, I can think of any number of things by Prokofiev and Bartok....

#2070314 - 04/24/13 11:17 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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I like the middle section, but the rest is kinda lame. Oh, the coda's pretty cool too. But it's not even all that exciting anyways, especially when you compare it to something like Scarbo.


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#2070315 - 04/24/13 11:17 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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Originally Posted by Goomer Piles
It seems to be commonly thought of as vulgar or lacking in musical worth. Is it? Why? Some people are preconditioned to dislike it even if they've never heard it and have never seen the score. Why?

To fans of the piece: what do you like about it? How do you defend it to its many detractors, or do you bother? Is it just a question of taste, or is there something more going on?

Are there other pieces in standard piano repertoire that are so polarizing?

I think it's got a couple things going for it. Most listeners seem to believe it is one of the most technically challenging works out there, and younger pianists will even approach it this way. And yes, it is technically challenging, so that is the first thing. Many people who attempt to tackle the piece can't get past the technical challenges to the music.

And that's where the real challenge is--the music. There are so many middle lines, inner melodies, and nuances, that it takes a truly seasoned veteran to bring them all to light.

I know when I first tried to learn the piece, I didn't have nearly enough technique to approach it, and while I could hear the music the way I wanted to play it, I couldn't make that happen in my fingers. It took me something like 7 years to come back to it and do it justice.

I consider Islamey to be like beer. Once you acquire a taste for it, you almost can't live without it. But the first time you try it, it kind of tastes like cat [censored]. wink


Let me address some of my ideas based on some of the criticisms in the thread. (I am not doing this to sway anyone's opinion. Some people have very clearly illuminated ideas I could not say any better, and I want to bounce off those ideas.)

Originally Posted by beet31425
I find it without substance and in your face-- an unfortunate combination.

This is kind of what I meant early on-- so many pianists tackle it as an in-your-face technical challenge that the music itself is lost. I didn't really like the piece until I started playing around with the score and found the nuances that appealed to me.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
My only criticsm of Islamey is I find it a little repetitious. Otherwise I quite like it. I don't think there's any common agreement among PW posters about this piece. Even if there is it would represent too small a number of people(a very high percentage of posts is done by a very small number of posters) to be of any significance.

I don't see much difference conceptually between Islamey and a piece like a Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody except that most of the Liszt Rhapsodies are a little better at achieving the same goal.

Another big issue, and I really like the Liszt example. I might even throw in La Campanella, too, in that it is very repetitious, and only carries a few themes. I believe Islamey was constructed as a fantasy based on two Oriental themes, and they do repeat several times. There's actually an optional cut towards the end of the score to cut a few pages (and one or two repetitions) out, though I don't remember what editor made the suggestion. I'd almost call it a theme and variation, or a fugue, except it doesn't vary enough, and there isn't really any counterpoint. (Would that be fair to say?)


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#2070317 - 04/24/13 11:18 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Mark_C]  
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
but I never thought of that as a melody.


Why not?

#2070318 - 04/24/13 11:18 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Kuanpiano]  
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Originally Posted by Kuanpiano
I like the middle section, but the rest is kinda lame. Oh, the coda's pretty cool too. But it's not even all that exciting anyways, especially when you compare it to something like Scarbo.

And compare the musical material to something like the first movement of Chopin's Op 58 and it looks like Chopsticks.


Regards,

Polyphonist
#2070322 - 04/24/13 11:22 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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They're often compared when it comes to technical difficulty, because Ravel apparently tried to write something harder than Islamey and came up with Scarbo (as you probably know....).

Though back to chopsticks..well, that's the point right? It's not supposed to be some sort of deep masterpiece anyways.


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#2070324 - 04/24/13 11:23 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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I prefer deep masterpieces. grin


Regards,

Polyphonist
#2070328 - 04/24/13 11:27 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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Islamey's main theme sounds like a childhood taunt. Best left in the 3rd grade schoolyard.


-J


Beethoven op.110, Chopin op.27/2, Liszt Vallée d'Obermann
#2070330 - 04/24/13 11:30 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Kuanpiano]  
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Originally Posted by Kuanpiano
....Though back to chopsticks..well, that's the point right? It's not supposed to be some sort of deep masterpiece anyways.

Then it needs to be shorter. smile

Good rule of thumb about art: Say what you've got to say, then quit.

So.....how much too-long is Islamey? grin

IMO about 7 and a half minutes.

It was news to me to find that it gets played any amount. None of my colleagues anywhere played it nor had I come across it in any performances till the amateur competitions -- i.e. not that long ago. And I've been surprised how much it pops up on this site. For example, we see more recordings and much more discussion of it than of (just for some disparate examples) Chopin's F minor Fantaisie, Beethoven's Op. 78 sonata, Bach's Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue, Mozart's A minor sonata, Schumann's Carnaval....

Am I saying it gets way more attention here than it deserves?
Yes. smile

#2070334 - 04/24/13 11:34 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Mark_C]  
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
So.....how much too-long is Islamey? grin

IMO about 7 and a half minutes.

Then Chopsticks must be a better piece, because it's only 10 seconds too long! grin

By the way, I was just thinking we need another Pianist Corner thread on the Chopin Op 58. Heck, I could create a whole site about that piece.


Regards,

Polyphonist
#2070337 - 04/24/13 11:43 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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A poll might (possibly?) reveal that younger (males?) like Islamey, but that the older one is the less one likes it. Since I'm probably one of the oldest regular contributors here, and if there's any validity to my hypothesis, that fact alone should indicate just what I feel about Islamey!

To clarify : it's repetitive, it's bombastic, it's virtuosity for virtuosity's sake, it's seemingly endless, and it has no redeeming musical worth - IMHO, understood!

Cheers!


BruceD
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#2070340 - 04/24/13 11:46 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: BruceD]  
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Originally Posted by BruceD
A poll might (possibly?) reveal that the older one is, the less one likes Islamey. Since I'm probably one of the oldest regulars here, that should tell those you who don't already know just what I feel about Islamey!

Cheers!

It has less to do with age than musical maturity. Young, inexperienced amateurs/college students say "Look! A piece that's difficult to play! I can impress everybody with this masterpiece! What brilliance!" They don't see the lack of musical material until it's too late-they've already learned it. grin


Regards,

Polyphonist
#2070345 - 04/24/13 11:53 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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Bruce, I disagree, I loved the piece when I was 20 and I'm now 57. It could be a general lack of maturity and certainly my wife might agree. I just think it's good fun and I love the lush middle section. I was taken in by Brendel's recording and haven't heard one that I like as well in the intervening years. It's easier to find recordings of it these days, but most don't do it justice.

#2070347 - 04/24/13 11:56 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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I think I tend to agree with Polyphonist regarding age... I know quite a few young people who don't like it. However, most of them are females. smile



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#2070348 - 04/24/13 11:58 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Polyphonist]  
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Originally Posted by Polyphonist
It has less to do with age than musical maturity. Young, inexperienced amateurs/college students say "Look! A piece that's difficult to play! I can impress everybody with this masterpiece! What brilliance!" They don't see the lack of musical material until it's too late-they've already learned it. grin

Then I guess young people 40 years ago were more mature than they are now. grin

#2070382 - 04/25/13 01:13 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]  
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I like readings that capture the folk/dance element and aren't taken too terribly fast. Among the YouTube offerings, I think Terrence Judd's is excellent. Gavrilov's is decent. Not a fan of Berezovsky's.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#2070387 - 04/25/13 01:20 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: beet31425]  
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Originally Posted by beet31425
Islamey's main theme sounds like a childhood taunt. Best left in the 3rd grade schoolyard.



It's a folk dance tune from the Caucasus.

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