Matter of opinion


After several master classes at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, given by several of us pianists, a student asked me: "Isn't it all just a matter of opinion?" And after so many diverging ideas and approaches, strongly expressed, who could blame anyone for asking that question? With so many differences, perhaps opinions just seem like ... random thoughts? I told him what I believe. "In music -- or politics, or anything -- the 'best' … [Read more...]

First Glass


Tim Page suggested I play some music by Philip Glass. It was a solo piano arrangement of part of the opera Satyagraha -- Gandhi's final, Act 3 aria. Tim wanted this music for a solo piano CD we were making for BMG's Catalyst label. The arrangement wasn't easy. According to Tim, the pianist Rudolf Firkusny had struggled with it, and given up -- Firkusny thought it was too hard to play! Though the Catalyst recording was never made (some details … [Read more...]



In classical music, many gestures need to "resolve." A dissonance, a departure from the harmonic (or melodic, or rhythmic) norm needs to be brought back to normality, disturbances need to be calmed -- "action" needs resolution. Chopin: Opus 44   This dotting of the "i," this attentive management of the small phraselet, is often subsumed in an attention to, or a desire for larger shapes. But music becomes generalized very easily. Large … [Read more...]

Molecular Piano


Before, I have spoken of "extreme" piano, related to the phenomenon of "extreme sports" -- I was talking about the masochistic marathon of Alvin Curran's Hope Street Tunnel Blues III. Now, I want to propose the notion of "molecular piano." I'm thinking of "molecular gastronomy" as practiced by Ferran Adrià and many others (focusing on ambiguities and subtle transformations -- from one state of edible matter to another). And, I am thinking too of … [Read more...]

Help Wanted


Talking to an internet start-up guy, it struck me: I need an intern. There's a new CD -- Time Curve -- coming out very soon on Arabesque (my playing of music by Glass and Duckworth). It's not quite "classical," not "new age" (although that may be how and other internet sellers will niche it). Some people use the term "alternative classical" or "alt classical"... From the statistics I have, the people who download my recordings … [Read more...]

One day


When I was a kid I read a lot of books about musical performers, books filled with fantastic tales, of adventures on tour, of transcendental virtuosity -- in the pre-recording era. This stuff can fire a teenager's imagination. After reading about Arthur Rubinstein learning Franck's Symphonic Variations on a long train ride (he went from the station to the first rehearsal), and Josef Hofmann performing a short piece after only hearing another … [Read more...]



The onset, the leading edge, of a note played on the piano is sudden. All the intensity of the tone comes right at the start, and then is followed by rapid decay. Close-up in a small room or in some recordings, we may be very aware of this edge. The slightly percussive beginning of a tone played on the organ is called "chiff." It can come from the physical opening of the valve which moves aside so air can flow through a pipe and make sound, or … [Read more...]