Labor Management


Sound recordings from the first decades of the 20th century form a performance-practice treatise, documenting practices that may offer insight into music-making of earlier times. In the case of piano music, very many of these recordings are recordings of Chopin’s music. There are a lot of recordings of short pieces. (The length of one cylinder and later one “side” of a disc was around 3 minutes.) Chopin: Waltz in A Minor, op. 34, no. 2, … [Read more...]



When listening to recordings from the 1930s I am fairly certain I don't hear the same thing as someone who listened in the '30s. Even if the sound waves were identical -- I could use a Victrola -- the context is so changed, my reception of the sound so differently influenced that it's different music now. Music is a transaction. When we categorize sound recordings as "music" we may make a misrepresentation. Isn't this sound, these patterns of … [Read more...]



  "Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be." -- Walter Benjamin (1936) Our current practice (2013) regarding sound recordings, movies, novels, poems, or images is rooted in old norms of analog reproduction. New art technologies will allow varying surface iteration of an underlying art product. For example, the … [Read more...]

Photographs of Paderewski


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...]



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...]



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...]

To the left


There was a nail in the old Carnegie Hall stage floor that marked the precise spot where the leg of Vladimir Horowitz's piano was to be positioned. Neurosis? Or careful attention to sonic detail? I was not very satisfied with the way I was playing -- near the end of a three-hour rehearsal at Wigmore Hall in London. My friend David Rick suggested that the piano be moved back, much closer to the rear wall of the Wigmore stage. The move was made … [Read more...]

Used Up — or Barely Begun?


Is the most famous classical music so familiar, so often performed, that it's worn out? I've listened to Beethoven's "Appassionata" so frequently that it's rather difficult for me to hear the music, to accurately sense the real sound patterns being made on a particular occasion. (The mind slips into a "this-is-how-it-goes" mode that dulls perception.) Are icons like the Fifth Symphony or the opening of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana being used up as … [Read more...]



Sometimes a piece of music is "withdrawn" from a composer's catalog. Music that was composed, published, and available is taken back -- rescinded. You can't get it anymore. Usually, the composer has thought better of it: the music doesn't hold up now, the composer's style has changed a lot, it's an early piece that just doesn't seem good enough for public display... All of Philip Glass's early non-tonal music is unavailable now. I play(ed) a … [Read more...]

I don’t see red


At last, I approved the master for my new CD. After the final round of sound renovations on the trickiest track -- a slow, mostly quiet piece in which some mysterious high frequency sounds were recorded along with the music -- Bob Katz sent me some before and after pictures: BEFORE ___________________________________________________________________ AFTER Using editing software that visualizes the recorded music across the … [Read more...]



From Florida, Bob Katz has sent a test CD of the mastered version of part of my new recording. This morning I'm listening. He's sent along a list of many clicks and noises he removed. There's question about the basic sound. He's chosen a dither he likes and done a bit of EQ and stereo image shifting. The underlying recording was too diffuse, he thought. He wants a bit more "edge" and a clearer sense of where the piano is on the stage. It's … [Read more...]