Inspirations

The Apple Store A month or so ago I went to the Apple Store in New York to buy a new iPod. (I dropped mine in the toilet. Don't ask!) And the store was a revelation. It's not just a store. It's a destination. It's packed with people. Some are shopping. Some are just trying out computers and iPods, which are available in great numbers for people to play with. And some people are just hanging out. Some bring their computers, and seem to be sitting on comfortable padded benches, working. When I bought my iPod, I didn't have to wait on a checkout … [Read more...]

Our new audience

From Marie Finnegan, a classical music fan "in snowy Maine" (as she says): HI Greg, I found your blog this morning and wanted to share a few thoughts. I am a 39 beginning flute player. I played tenor sax back in high school so music isn't completely new to me. Classical music as an interest is, however. My band instructor wasn't a great motivator or teacher of classical music. (Actually he lacked many talents and the band sadly shrunk because of it.) Our "band" also lacked a string section. (we were 12 to 20 strong on a good day) I came … [Read more...]

The past comes to life

In the old days -- which I used to think meant the 18th and 19th centuries -- pianists used to improvise introductions to pieces they played. This was called "preluding," and gave rise to the short, freeform pieces we call "preludes" (like Chopin's), which were written-out versions of the kind of music pianists might improvise. But now I've learned that pianists preluded well into the 20th century. And that there are recorded examples, from old-time like Josef Hoffman and Wilhelm Backhaus! I guess I'm late in learning this, because many people … [Read more...]

Something nice

Something wonderful in Andrew Druckenbrod's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette piece on applause...and no, not simply what he and various Pittsburgh Symphony musicians say about how people in the audience should feel free to clap between movements. And maybe even during the music. No, what struck me even more was Andy's many links to musical examples, which bring to life so many things he talks about. He even includes both live and studio recordings of "Un beldi," from Madama Butterfly, to show what happens when people applaud over the orchestral … [Read more...]

Stressbusters

My 80 gig video iPod, and my Shure E5-C headphones. I've had Etymotic headphones, which I'd swear were the best in-ear earbuds I could possibly hear, but the Shures (a Christmas gift) outdo them, both in how well they isolate outside noise, and in their sound. It's so rich and detailed that at first it sounded almost phony -- too real, too rich. But then I got used to them. Perfect for planes. Two downsides, though. To get them to stay in place, you have to loop the cord over your ears, which takes a long moment, and can be a little cumbersome. … [Read more...]

Stress and Silence

I should apologize for my silence on this blog for the past -- can it be? -- two weeks. Or maybe not. I'd have preferred to post, but (to bring up an issue more important than music, both for myself and others) I realized this fall that I'd been very stressed. My paying work, traveling, my teaching, this blog, meetings on future projects, composing, my online book...I've had a lot of balls in the air at once  and I noticed a lot of classic symptoms of stress. My mind racing at night, back pain, irritable bowels; and throughout it all, a … [Read more...]