Sudden Death

EdgertonApplesauce

Some folks probably were comforted by an article that appeared online last year -- an article titled, "Why You Probably Won't Experience Your Own Traumatic Death." "Ever wonder what it would be like to get shot in the head, or have your face smash into a car's windshield? Well, you can stop wondering, because you'll never know -- even if it does happen to you... "It takes as long as 150 to 300 milliseconds (ms) to be aware of a collision … [Read more...]

“New Music Expert”

PlightBeuys

"I repeat all the great experiments of the 19th Century. My results are much better, more consistent, and more subtly nuanced." What will I think of the scientist who makes such a pronouncement? I might think that person's not a scientist. A craftsman perhaps. An artisan or hobbyist? But this guy's goal in the laboratory would seem to be something other than discovery, something other than science. And doesn't this apply to art as … [Read more...]

Conservatory Theory

KoestenbaumAJ

Wayne Koestenbaum writes in his Hotel Theory how a hotel represents an ever-changing collection of people. A not-random assortment, complicated in its variability and contextual specificity. How about the various people on an airplane headed from New York to Amsterdam? Or Boston to Cancun? Or the musicians gathered in and by a conservatory? At Juilliard, we had at one time (students and teachers): Dorothy Delay, Felix Galimir, Milton … [Read more...]

Photographs of Paderewski

PaderewskiAJ3

Every week there are newly-offered Paderewski items for sale on eBay. His long career yielded thousands and thousands of pieces of ephemera, programs, Paderewski postcards, Paderewski soap, tobacco cards, coins, candles, postage stamps, newspaper photos, piano rolls, sound recordings. For a long time, I wanted to acquire an old photograph of Ignaz Jan Paderewski. (Is it because I know Horowitz kept a Paderewski photo near his piano?) … [Read more...]

8.0

treeARthumb

As much as I'm opposed to the notion that musical learning is directly transmitted from teacher to student, it did cross my mind that musicians may fall into generational groups in terms of their shared practice or thinking. If so, as a pianist I suppose I belong to Generation 8 (Gen 8.0). I'm imagining that "classical" music as a culture of cultivating the durable repertoire of classics begins around 1800, and may be centered on the person … [Read more...]

Word

MalibranAJ

The story told by Robert Levin involved snickering Italian waiters. Bob asked quite a few Italian speakers, "What does sfogato mean?" (An Italian-English dictionary will say something like “letting loose.”) The motivation for Levin's particular curiosity was the use of the term in the score of Chopin's Barcarolle (m. 78). It's a word that doesn't appear in (earlier) piano music. Frédéric Chopin: Barcarolle In this written music, "sfogato" … [Read more...]

Homeplace

GWood

My grandmother, my father’s mother, had a nonchalant and serious way of saying “homeplace.” She was talking about the family farm where she lived for more than five decades, where members of the Brubaker family had lived for a century. It wasn’t grand. But conveyed in her pronunciation of that word was both great comfort and resignation. I don’t suppose I understand it. There were entire winter months when she stayed there, never venturing off … [Read more...]

Priceless

AbbottNY

Composers may receive commission fees for making new music. Some kind of pricing structure for learning new difficult piano pieces seems to be needed. Presenters will better be able to plan the use of their resources. In addition to a reasonable base fee, pianists can be paid for add-ons in a new piece. Herewith a pricelist for additional or extraordinary services -- like the extra ingredients in an omelette, or atop a pizza. For all notes … [Read more...]

Hand-played

Player1909AJthumb

In the parlance of mechanical player-pianos, "hand-played" described a piano roll that was directly derived from a realtime human performance. After the initial punching of a roll, it could be retouched. Alternatively, a roll could be prepared entirely by a technician punching holes in a paper roll, measuring physical distances on paper to make the rhythm -- no piano playing required. Conlon Nancarrow carried that practice to considerable … [Read more...]

Miraggio

TanglewoodTCH1

I learned Brahms's Opus 114 quickly -- about ten days from my first encounter with the music to the performance. As a fellow at Tanglewood, I was working on several chamber and ensemble pieces. There were coachings. (Joel Krosnick worked with me and my Brahms colleagues.) The performance went well. There was one place in the last movement when I didn't come in properly -- I played a conspicuously wrong harmony. For years, I avoided listening to … [Read more...]

How to cook a fish

SkateWithout

The first time I ate skate, I'm sure it was a fillet that was sautéed and crispy. A piscatorial classic of the bistro, it was made with lots of butter, and probably capers. It's a classic that requires an act of virtuosity, the cutting of the fillet. Fancy fish sellers and well-trained chefs turned a rather ordinary ingredient into something most cooks couldn't really do. About ten years ago or more, skate started showing up unfilleted on … [Read more...]

Drone

BlueLagoon

Last summer, I went to Iceland to record Nico Muhly's Drones & Piano. I planned to spend two days in the studio, walk around Rejkavik, go to the Blue Lagoon, and fly back to New York. When I arrived at Greenhouse Studios, the door was opened by Nadia Sirota. I had no idea she was going to be there. According to Nadia, she "kind of Jedi Mind Tricked" me into recording another of Nico's drone pieces with her, Drones & Viola -- after I … [Read more...]

What’s in a name?

Bach1

"Richard told me." Or, "Martha thinks so." The inspeak of the classical music anointed? A mark of self-importance, of access, or just an acknowledgement of exactly how the celebrated wish to be addressed? Unusual names can serve more easily. "Just ask La Monte." And beyond, "Milton thought so," there are histories and associations. Alexis Weissenberg would be "Siggy” Weissenberg. For some, Susan Wadsworth remained "Susan Popkin." And … [Read more...]

Anti-Repertory

Antirepertory

All the piano pieces I didn't play. All the pieces I didn't cover, didn't learn... didn't perform... didn't record... All those pieces I never heard (of). It's my Anti-Repertory. Some of the old pianists covered more. (They had to, there was no recording -- ) Antimatter, Antichrist. (to be able to hear anything, it had to be played.) Doesn't matter. The molecules don't have to be made to vibrate. Music is not only … [Read more...]

Other Planets

TerrasseAJ

  Recurring patterns of signification in music -- topoi. The grand unfolding of time and space represented by a steady repeated-pitch ostinato with slow-motion harmonic change around it, found at the opening of Haydn's Creation, for example. (Haydn could have had a career in sci-fi futurism...) I heard a pianist play through Debussy's prelude "...La terrasses des audiences du clair de lune." Near the end, there's an anomalous passage that … [Read more...]