Sometimes we can discern a person’s thoughts, emotions, mood or intentions, or all of these, from a subtle clue. The great classical actor Ian McKellen illustrated this in a one-man performance on Broadway in the 1980s. While explaining how an audience can pick up on the slightest onstage movement, he produced a slight twitch just below his left eye. The movement was obvious to everyone in the house, which immediately responded with laughter. The twitch of a single muscle had given everything away. We in the audience may not have been transcendent but McKellen was, and is, in his craft.
Subtlety is akin to precision and incisiveness. It is the delicate art of being certain, and correct, on the basis of a tiny clue.
- Jean Dubuffet, Texturologie XXXV (Prune et Lilas) (1958)
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
- Of Handel’s oratorio Jephtha, one reviewer writes: “The music's drive comes, instead, from Handel's arrangement of arias, subtle instrumentation and evocative colors. Simple melodies are given penetrating power; in Jephtha Handel can take us without contradiction to simultaneous heights of horror and rapture with a restrained harpsichord continuo or gentle flute.” Here are links to performances conducted by Christie, Gardiner, and a recording on the Brilliant label.
- Easley Blackwood, Twelve Microtonal Etudes for Electronic Music Media, Op. 28: in this work, small (microtonal) changes drive the music forward. (1) 16 notes: Andantino; (2) 18 notes: Allegro volando; (3) 21 notes: Suite in four mvts.; (4) 23 notes: Allegro moderato; (5) 13 notes: Sostenuto; (6) 15 notes: Lento; (7) 17 notes: Con moto; (8) 22 notes: Andante ma non troppo; (9) 24 notes: Moderato; (10) 14 notes: Allegramente; (11) 20 notes: Comodo; (12) 19 notes: Allegro moderato.
- Ralph Towner and Paolo Fresu, “Chiaroscuro” album; title track live