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I'm trying to teach myself some piano pieces by Joaquín Turina and he marks certain passages as "lointains" (French for "distant"). It occurred to me that I have no idea what this means in terms of performance. Is it a mood to be impart somehow? (How?) A specific dynamic effect (like "cantabile")? Something stylistic?

More generally, are there any good books or other reference material that explain how to interpret terms like this? I found a nice dictionary of terms here, but nothing about translating them into performance.

I remember learning a lot of basic musical terms from John Thompson's "Keyboard Attacks" and other of his elementary books; it not only explained what the terms meant, but also how to execute them through various playing techniques. Something like that (but more comprehensive) would be very nice, particularly if it was oriented to the self-learner.

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I've never played a piece with a lointains marking, nor have I learnt about it. But this is how I would interpret "distant".

It's definitely a mood, which of course encompasses dynamics. I would slow down a bit, and quiet down dramatically. I would want the audience to strain to hear, as if listening for something in the distance. I would expect this passage to have a lot of rests or at least longer notes, rather than fast ones; that would allow for pausing and delays. I would use them to further augment the straining of the audience. "Has he stopped playing? Ah, there it is." That sort of idea. You don't want to stray too far from the tempo and beat, of course; an audience becomes frustrated when their expectations are entirely violated. You just want to make them question whether that expectation will be met. You could play in time, but a little off-beat; insert a sixteenth rest before a half note and shorten the note by a sixteenth, for example.

Mich makes a good point below that using the soft pedal would help create a muted sound, which would fit perfectly with this idea.

Sorry for the vagueness, but I think that's unavoidable when talking about mood (even if I had studied it). If I could play it for you, I would!

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Sounds good. I'd elaborate that the performer may want to consider specifically using the soft pedal, as that would also create a veiled, distant tone. – Mich Sampson Jun 29 '11 at 21:53
@Mich Ah, I thought about that and forgot it by the time I wrote my answer. It would definitely be a good way to create not just a quieter sound, but a more muffled one. Fits perfectly with "distant". Thanks! – Matthew Read Jun 29 '11 at 21:56
This is great. I can see how to apply these techniques to get a "distant" effect. Thanks to both of you! By the way, the piece I'm learning is Turina's Op. 20 No. 1. The mark lointain comes after 16 opening bars marked pp mystérieux, and is actually a little syncopated and faster. So is this something a performer is supposed to invent based on a general meaning of the mark? – Ted Hopp Jun 29 '11 at 22:38
@Ted Some mood/tempo markings are supposed to be "understood" (see the quoted part in my answer here for a little detail) but in this case I don't think lointain is commonly used, and interpretation is more than acceptable. – Matthew Read Jun 29 '11 at 22:42
I had already read that post of yours (also very nice). :) By the way, the title of the piece is "Before the tower of Clavero (ancient fortress of Salamanca)". Turina's own commentary on the piece is, "The poet dreams of ancient archer's rounds, and suddenly the silhouette of a woman appears." – Ted Hopp Jun 29 '11 at 22:48

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