Recording on a Digital Piano

July 22, 2010

Recently, I have been experimenting with a lot different ways to record piano music. As much as I love the sound of an acoustic piano, I decided to experiment with the digital piano to see what kind of sound I could get with it. A few weeks ago, I blogged on the 200th anniversary of Robert Schumann, which you can read more about here. So, this week I decided to record a little of Dreaming from Scenes of Childhood by Robert Schumann.

I hope you enjoy!

Listen to Dreaming by Schumann here

Parrot rehearsing for his debut!

July 18, 2010

New Recording is Up!

July 17, 2010

Today I was very inspired to play Romantic Composers, so I decided to record the Chopin’s Nocturne in B-flat Major, op.9, n.2. This was the very first nocturne I ever learned many years ago, and I still remember how technically challenging this piece was at first. All the thrills, ornaments, pedaling, left hand jumps, the octaves on the right hand and the little cadenza at the end plus all the artistic expression seem to be endlessly difficult at the time.

Now, I look back and I realize how technically simple this piece has became for me after all those years. Also, I never thought back then that understanding the music theory behind this nocturne would actually help me play it technically and artistically better. Its harmonies are actually quite simple and they reoccur many times throughout the piece.

This is a very simple recording and I am still deepening my understanding and the meaning of this work, with many more things to mature and develop on my own playing, but I hope your enjoy!

Click here to listen to Chopin’s nocturne op.9, n.2.mp3

Music for Everyone

July 15, 2010

Technology in our today’s fast-paced world have brought us limitless possibilities and tools, expanding our communication, networking and much easier access to information. It “is a “fantastic bridge between what anybody is able to do and you might want to express”, says MIT Media Lab music professor, cellist and composer Tod Machover.

He is the creator of Hyperscore, a computer program that enable non-musicians to compose music by using lines and colors, so people basically “draw” music to create different sounds. He says the program “is pretty sophisticated, but easy to use.” As an accomplished cellist and composer, Tod Machover has written six operas, with the debut of Death and the Powers coming up in September of 2010. He believes that today’s technology and music are very integrated, but sometimes technology can’t replace music and the feelings that come with it. “I love my Iphone, but it’s not an instrument, (…) and it doesn’t feel and sound as good as the sound coming out of my cello”, he says.

On the other hand, he believes that music comes from all around us and this kind of technology will allow its access to everyone. “It’s democratizing music because it lets everybody make their own music”, he says. Art can be used as a wonderful tool to educate and change lives, however “it should be available and understandable to everybody. It should be serious but not elitist”, says Machover

The advancements in neuroscience of music and different technologies could bring people to experience music in such ways that one would be able to interact and respond to music individually. This could be used as a Music Therapy a tool to help treat depression patients. “Specialists who are partly psychiatrists and partly composers and partly neuroscientists could help create that music and prescribe it, then shape and tweak it during a listening experience for maximum impact. That might be a dream now, but it will soon be possible, and this seems an enormous change in the potential of music to reach us in the most powerful way”, he says.

Hyperscore Official Website

For more information, click here

©2010 Spokane Piano Studio

Music Media Monthly Blog

July 13, 2010

Today, I found a very interesting blog Music Media Monthly, which cover releases of new CDS and downloads, recommendation of upcoming and reprints of music related books, videos, articles and music websites.

Definitely worth checking it out, if you haven’t yet:

http://musicmediamonthly.com/

“Liszt’s Manner of Giving Lessons” – Part II (continuation)

July 13, 2010

This blog is the last part of three posts about Siloti’s experiences and impressions on this master and teacher Franz Liszt, originally published on the book “Siloti’s Memories” by Meethven Simposon, and later printed on the The Etude edition of July 1920.

Liszt’s Manner of Giving Lessons”

Liszt’s lessons were of a totally different order from the common run. As a rule he sat beside, or stood opposite to, the pupil who was playing, and indicated by the expression of his face the nuances he wished to have brought into the music. It was only for the first two months that he taught me in front of all the other pupils; after I went to him in the morning when I was working at any specially big thing, and he taught me by myself. I always knew so throughly what I wanted to express in each piece of music that I was able to look at Liszt’s face all the time I was playing.

No one else in the world could show musical phrases as he did, merely by the expression of his face. If a pupil understood these fine shades, so much better for him; if not, so much for the worst! Liszt told me that he could explain nothing to pupils who did not understand him from first. He never told us what to work at; each pupil could prepare what he liked. All we had to do when we came to the lesson was to lay the piano at the piano; Liszt the picked out the things he wished to hear.

There were only two things we were not allowed to bring: Liszt’s 2nd Rhapsody (because it was too often played) and Beethoven’s Sonata quasi una fantasia which Liszt in his time had played incomparably, as was afterwards proven to me. Neither did he like anyone to prepare Chopin’s Scherzo in B-flat minor, which he nicknamed the “Governess” Scherzo, saying that it ought to be reserved for those people who were qualifying for the post of governess. Everything else of Chopin’s, particularly his Preludes, he delighted in hearing. He insisted on a poetical interpretation, not a “salon” performance, and it irritated him when the group of small notes were played too quickly, “conservatorium-fashion” as he called it” (The Etude, p.448).

“Liszt’s Manner of Giving Lessons” – Part II

July 12, 2010

This post is Part II of the original article from the July 1920 edition of The Etude by Alexander Siloti on his thoughts and experiences studying with Franz Liszt.

“To describe Liszt’s lessons in such a way as to give an idea of his personality would be impossible. It is necessary to see certain and certain people if one would have a clear impression of them. There were thirty or forty of us young fellows, and I remember  that (…) we looked small and feeble besides the old man, shrunken with age. He was literally like a sun in our midst; when we were with him we fest the rest of the world to be in shadow, and when we left his presence, out hearts were so filled with gladness that our faces were, all unconsciously, wreathed in rapturous smiles.

The lesson took place three times a week – on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – from four to six o’clock. Anybody who wished could come and have a lesson without paying a farthing. Liszt remembered his own desire, when quire a boy, to enter the Paris Conservatory, and the refusal to admit him on the part of the director (Cherubini) because he was a foreigner. This refusal, he said, made such an impression on him that he voweled to himself that if he ever became a great musician he would give lessons without taking any payment. It was practically a condition that men should come to the lessons, not in frock coats, but wearing lounge jackets, and that ladies should be simply dressed – the idea that the poorer pupils should not feel uncomfortable besides the richer ones” (The Etude, p.447).

©2010 Spokane Piano Studio

“Liszt’s Wonderful Hospitality” – Part I

July 12, 2010

The following are thoughts extracted from the July 1920 edition of The Etude by Alexander Siloti on his experiences studying with the composer and pianist Franz Liszt.

“I packed up my belongings – not for my new quarters, but for Russia – and, taking with me Chopin’s Ballade in A-flat, I went to Liszt for my lesson. As I approached the house the same sinking sensation which I had experienced at table came over me again,  and I went into my lesson as to a final ordeal before I started back in Russia. Liszt said good-morning to me very kindly. There were about twenty-five pupils present. Somebody played something – I do not remember what it was – then came my turn. I sat down and began the Ballade, but I had only played two bars when Liszt stopped me, saying: “Si, signore, si, signore,” said Liszt in Italian, smiling a trifle maliciously. I continued playing, but he stopped me several times and played over certain passages for me. When I got up from the piano I felt bewitched. I looked at Liszt, and was conscious of a gradual change in myself. My whole being became suffused by a glow of warmth and goodness, and by the end of my lesson I could not believe that, only two hours before, I had packed my things and wanted to run away. I left Liszt’s house a different being, and was convinced that I should stay and study with him. All my trouble – that feeling of loneliness and helplessness, arising from my ignorance of the language – as if it at the touch of a magic hand. I had become all at once a man who knew his own mind; I realized that there was a sun to whose rays I could turn for warmth and comfort” (The Etude, p.447).

Liszt was undoubtedly consider one of the great pianists in the history of music. His vast knowledge and music skills were obviously present through his virtuosic playing and his teachings. He inspired his students to not only become better at piano playing, but to enrich their lives and become better people through music. This is an example that all music teachers should embrace. Music should not be about knowing how to play “the notes”, but it should be a channel to better comprehend the world around us and to express our feelings, thoughts and our souls.

Very Rare Music Publications from 1905-1920’s

July 11, 2010

A few months ago, one of my students gave a collections of antique scores and music magazines from the about  1905’s and 1920’s that he had found in a garage sale. The pages were very warned out and fragile,  but I have found these incredibly fascinating with lots of great insights on how people understood and taught music almost a century ago. Among these rare publications, there was The Etude, which was a U.S Magazine  with its first publication in October 1883, and its last publication in 1957. The articles in this magazine were targeted to both musicians and amateurs, including subjects varying from music history, pedagogy, gossips and piano sheet music.

One of these collections of The Etude (July 1920) tells us about Liszt’s teaching style by one of his own pupils, Alexander Siloti, who was considered one of the great Russian pianists and masters of his time. Since the article is quite long, I will be dividing the next posts for this blog into three parts, with Part I talking about “Liszt’s Wonderful Hospitality” and Part II, about Liszt’s Manner of Giving Lessons”, and Part III on Liszt’s Manner of Giving Lessons” (continuation). The original article were excerpts extracted from the complete authorized English translation of the book “Siloti’s Memories”, by Meethven Simposon.

Stay tuned for more updates in this post about interesting thoughts and facts on the great pianist and composer Franz Liszt! 😉

Do Musicians Hear Better than Anyone Else?

July 7, 2010

Studies presented at the 2009 Society for Neuroscience, shows that music training can greatly improve your hearing abilities. Researchers discovered that musicians have a better tendency to perceive and remember sounds not only because of their “good ears”, but greatly because of their years of musical training. The study shows that music can help your auditory system to connect to the world around by “tuning” more from all the experiences with sound throughout your whole life.

A different experiment also tested musicians and non-musicians with their abilities to quickly respond to sounds, while staying focused. The results showed that musicians were actually able to react to the sounds faster and more correctly while keeping their focus for much longer. “Musical experience can change how our brain interacts with sounds,” (…) It’s almost like the brain is better able to pay attention to sound and [to] better extract meaning from sound”, says Dana Strait, a doctoral candidate for the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University.

A third study also demonstrated that even musicians who had hearing loss, were also able to identify different sounds more accurately, while non-musicians with similar hearing impairment were not able to. Dr. Mark Jude Tramo, a professor of neurology at Harvard says, “you think about the brain and the hearing system as if they were muscles. (…) Tennis players tend to be good arm wrestlers because they have strong forearms.” Similarly, a musician who exercises certain parts of the brain “is going to be able to do better on any task that involves auditory concentration”, he says.

For more information, visit:
Institute for Music & Brain Science.

Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University.

Say What?! Musicians Hear Better.

Researchers Probe How Music Rewires the Brain.

©2010 Spokane Piano Studio