I just got an email from a very well known European harpist who asked me for information about Salzedo’s obsession with the number 5. I think he is writing jacket notes for a new CD and wants to say something about this. But I don’t know what the answer is. Does anyone out there know the origin of this?
This is probably something that Saul would probably be most likely to know. He wrote the introduction to Pentacle, which focused on the five aspects of Salzedo’s life. I kind of always assumed it was just a natural thing with Salzedo that things seemed to go into fives with him.
Salzedo’s mother died when he was very young (I’m pretty sure he was five, actually). In order to help out in general (and specifically with little Salzedo), Salzedo senior hired a Basque woman. Salzedo came to love this woman very much, and liked to think of himself as Basque because of it, despite the fact that he is not Basque at all. One of the traditional forms in Basque music, the Zortzico, a dance in five.
…interesting thread. So, kind of similar many of us are attracted to a certain number, especially with music. As I’ve matured as a musician, I’m always looking for and focused on “9”. I’m always looking for a place to put a 9th in the harmony, even without the 7th…. very often a 9th off in space….
The Basques are a distinct ethnic group with a unique language. I don’t know what their religion would be, but it would not be Jewish. Salzedo’s family were Spanish and Portuguese Jews who moved to southern France to escape the Inquisition. The families are Salzedo and Silva, both distinguished names with long histories. While he had a mystical identification with the number five, the origin is unknown to me. He certainly may have adopted Basque culture quite naturally from his nanny. Losing his mother so young had to have had quite an impact on his life. I think that using the 5/4 meter, however natural to him, was another way to be a distinctive, modern composer, as no other composer used it so frequently or so well. Salzedo is the only composer I have seen whose 5/4 cannot be divided into groups of 2 and 3. It is whole, like the prime number it is.
How extraordinary it is to be so close in life to a composer as to have first-hand information on how to play his music. Imagine how pianists hunger to have that on Chopin. I would like to know which European harpists have a sufficient background, aside from those who trained extensively here. For some reason, few Salzedo-trained harpists ever lived in Europe, except for the years Alice Giles spent in Germany, and two students of Lucile Lawrence I know of who live there.
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