Now, I dunno if you're familiar with Ravel. I was fairly familiar; I've always found some of the excerpts from Daphnis and Chloe to be both wonderful and pretty much the most nakedly sexual thing one can possibly do with an orchestra without getting splinters. But his piano pieces? They're hailed as the most romantic piano music of all time, but I never could "get" them. There were always these odd discordant notes that made me think "did the pianist just flub that chord?" Just did nothing for me, certainly nothing romantic.
Well anyway, our delightfully dapper elderly professor emeritus opens up with several bars of some nameless Ravel piece, and sure enough, I'm sitting there uncomfortably wondering if perhaps he's getting a bit old and is missing a chord here and there. But after a few bars, he stops, and begins triggering slides of Ravel in his late teens, wild-haired and bearded. And as we stare at these images of wild man Ravel, the professor is amiably telling us how Ravel was considered utterly brilliant - but wild, not entirely controllable - in his studency at Paris' Conservatoir. And then the professor goes on to tell us that an excellent example of Ravel's basic wildness is his fondness for the use of a very disturbing ninth interval - and he reaches down to the keyboard, and plays the discordant note. Holy crap! Okay, so it is deliberate... he goes on to explain that although the interval itself is so harsh and dissonant, Ravel had these ways of layering other melody on top and/or using pedal work to break it up, leaving the bit of discord as what sweetens the rest of the music so unbearably; making you want to chase after that beauty, to use it to wipe out that tiny little bit of discord still left by his ninth intervals.
And with that, he dimmed the lights, and began playing an excerpt from La Valse, and WOW - I could hear it! The way he had described it!
And for the next hour, hearing Ravel's piano works in a dark room, I was desperately wishing for somebody to make out with to piano music. Now I understand why his stuff is hailed as so incredibly romantic; it seems like there's nothing to chase that little bit of lingering discord and tension away like cuddling up with somebody in the dark and making out. Wow.
(and the making fun of me for being a dork commences... now.)