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#2070233 - 04/24/13 09:26 PM What's so bad about Islamey?
Goomer Piles Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/14/13
Posts: 112
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]
gooddog Online   content
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Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4766
Loc: Seattle area, WA
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.
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#2070249 - 04/24/13 10:12 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
beet31425 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3707
Loc: Bay Area, CA
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

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#2070271 - 04/24/13 10:35 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19221
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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]
Goomer Piles Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/14/13
Posts: 112
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.


Edited by Goomer Piles (04/24/13 10:41 PM)
Edit Reason: p.s.

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#2070274 - 04/24/13 10:39 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
pianoloverus Online   content
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double post


Edited by pianoloverus (04/24/13 10:48 PM)

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#2070276 - 04/24/13 10:43 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10349
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Yes, I see that you find it repetitious, ... repetitious, ...
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#2070284 - 04/24/13 10:47 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
Orange Soda King Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/09
Posts: 6070
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky, United S...
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.

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#2070286 - 04/24/13 10:50 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Orange Soda King]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7475
Loc: New York City
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 ).
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#2070291 - 04/24/13 10:57 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
Damon Offline
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Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6063
Loc: St. Louis area
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.
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#2070295 - 04/24/13 11:00 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7475
Loc: New York City
HAHAHAHAhahahaha...hahaha...ha..

Hilarious.

(Not.)
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#2070296 - 04/24/13 11:01 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Damon]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19641
Loc: New York
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.

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#2070304 - 04/24/13 11:09 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
didyougethathing Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/11
Posts: 544
Loc: New York
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.


Edited by didyougethathing (04/24/13 11:09 PM)

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#2070308 - 04/24/13 11:14 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: didyougethathing]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19641
Loc: New York
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....

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#2070314 - 04/24/13 11:17 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2114
Loc: Canada
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]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5279
Loc: Philadelphia
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]
Damon Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 6063
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
but I never thought of that as a melody.


Why not?
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It's been scientifically proven that Horowitz sucks.

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#2070318 - 04/24/13 11:18 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Kuanpiano]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7475
Loc: New York City
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.
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Polyphonist

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#2070322 - 04/24/13 11:22 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2114
Loc: Canada
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]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7475
Loc: New York City
I prefer deep masterpieces. grin
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Polyphonist

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#2070328 - 04/24/13 11:27 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
beet31425 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3707
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Islamey's main theme sounds like a childhood taunt. Best left in the 3rd grade schoolyard.


-J

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#2070330 - 04/24/13 11:30 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Kuanpiano]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19641
Loc: New York
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

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#2070334 - 04/24/13 11:34 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Mark_C]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7475
Loc: New York City
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.
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Polyphonist

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#2070337 - 04/24/13 11:43 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
BruceD Online   content
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Registered: 05/26/01
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Loc: Victoria, BC
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!
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#2070340 - 04/24/13 11:46 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: BruceD]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7475
Loc: New York City
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
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Polyphonist

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#2070345 - 04/24/13 11:53 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
John Pels Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/31/07
Posts: 1258
Loc: Tomball, Texas
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.

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#2070347 - 04/24/13 11:56 PM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6092
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
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]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19641
Loc: New York
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

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#2070382 - 04/25/13 01:13 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: Goomer Piles]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13759
Loc: Iowa City, IA
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.
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#2070387 - 04/25/13 01:20 AM Re: What's so bad about Islamey? [Re: beet31425]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7753
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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