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Mozart at dusk and daybreak (evading the wrath of neighbors)

soundwaves 2

I hadn’t realized I violated curfew as I recorded the first half of Mozart’s G Major Sonata, K. 283 (Presto) on Mac21 last night starting at dusk. Here in my Berkeley apartment complex, washing machines, dryers, and all music must cease at 10 p.m. meaning my video/audio track had ostensibly gone down the drain in my overtime spin– (Part A was memorialized as my iMovie “Project”) but I hadn’t the know-how to merge an incubating Part B the next DAY to finish the job. (At all costs I’d wanted to avoid a beer-bottle disposing neighbor who could put the kibosh on any further recording efforts this weekend.) He’d been known to trash more than one Bach Little Prelude in progress.

Still, embracing a shred of optimism, I headed for hoping to dig myself out of a despairing ditch. My Search Terms, “MERGING projects on iMovie” might lead to W.A.’s resurrection.

The Angels must have sprinkled fairy dust over my domain, because I found five other sobbing souls looking for the second coming. (That is, how to tag on part B)

The answer to our common project-related problem was as clear as day. “Select All, and paste the rest of the movement (when recorded) to what took place BEFORE.”

So true to every Chosen Word, I followed the Google-derived Gospel and completed my Project when the sun was comfortably shining at 10 a.m.

With an ear and eye to the latest technology, I stitched together this rendering, that had its original formatting as a spreadsheet.

Mozart Sonata in G Presto spread out on piano

Mozart Presto, K. 283

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Piano practicing, performance, and gym routines: Always Reach Beyond! (Video, Bach Invention 8 in F)

I take my inspiration from the two Irina/Irena-s, each pronouncing their names slightly differently. Irina Gorin is the ingenious piano teacher from Carmel, Indiana via the Ukraine, and Irena Orlov is from Washington D.C.’s Levine School of Music via Leningrad. They both inspire students to explore and draw out their deepest creative expression.

That’s what we should all be doing in our personal practice sanctuaries. I certainly try to evaluate and re-evaluate my own performances, whether they’re recorded for myself to review, or for You Tube. Regardless of having an audience of one, or many, the process of learning from experience, examining phrasing, physical comportment, and anything that might have intruded upon a free flow of physical and emotional expression (there’s that word again) is worth noticing.

That’s why I believe that videotaping yourself is an amazing teaching tool– one that can spur musical growth if you, the player, can distance yourself enough from the recorded sample to make some valuable observations. In other words, don’t be hard on yourself. Look at the mirror of your playing like it was someone else’s image– Think of a friend, whom you would not harshly criticize. Underline “O” for objectivity.

This type of mirrored self-analysis is the next best thing to having a teacher present looking over your shoulder. Or maybe you don’t want anyone encroaching on your space. Give yourself a breather and do a little self-assessment.

If you can spot places in your recording where something went awry, and not necessarily a glut of conspicuously wrong notes, you can try to pinpoint a physical problem, where perhaps a tense arm or wrist got in the way. You might remember at this moment, that you lost your breath and became anxious. Every aspect of one’s mental state and respiration factor into a total performance. Musical inspiration or intuition are not enough to get a pianist from the first measure to the final cadence. There must be a pacing, just like athletes know. Pianists are part athlete, part Terpsichore or any nyphm in the forest you choose to be–and part split personality when they’re playing. Vladimir Horowitz talked about fire and ice states when tackling the warhorses.

Being attuned to a relaxed physical state, in any case, works in a player’s favor

Which reminds me that today, a few hours before I attempted to record the whip-lashing, nerve-splitting, Bach Invention 8 on my iMac, I dashed off to Bally’s Gym, with my boots on, no less, and did a self-instigated photo shoot. Actually I aimed the silly Sony Cybershot at the mirror, not realizing that the flash (an automatic setting) would obliterate me, like I was blown up in one of those superhero video games. But at last, I survived once I knocked out the flash.

My goal was to get a pic of myself working out on the Gravitron where I build upper body strength and feel a good workout for my arms. It’s really helps leverage weight into the keys, so I strongly recommend it.

Here’s a fleeting look: I set the weight at 70, which means I’m pulling about 45 pounds. I follow up with 30-minutes of leg press, deep breathing all the way through.

Not to forget, that behind every performance, especially one being recorded, there’s a cat lurking in the wings ready to pounce at the wrong moment, sending any and all music to the trash! So make sure when you sit down to videotape yourself, that your feline is not permitted on the piano, in the piano, or near the piano. In this instance, Aiden was about to leap to the window sill to make his favorite racket, pawing the blinds.

Tutorial on this Invention 8, BWV 779–using a spring forward wrist motion:

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Everything but the kitchen sink on video: How to make an iMovie with any sanity

I was experimenting once again with the iMac’s iMovie plopping myself down at Haddy, (my Haddorff piano) at the first opportunity after lessons were over today. In the process of exploring and refining recording conditions here at home, I decided to take my Yeti, not Big Foot, but a spiffy looking silver plated mic to a remote part of the living room, to achieve a composite auditory imprint of the piano. With the mic formerly placed within two feet of the instrument right beside iMac 21, I’d noticed that Haddy’s mid range notes had cut sharply into the treble, making it nearly impossible to balance voices. Add in a built-in drone, that if raised a few decibels would have shocked the ears like an amplifier gone berserk, and I faced a formidable challenge. Still, I reasoned that things could have been worse. I remembered the time a local recording engineer had placed pricey mics inside and underneath my Steinway grand, causing pedal impulse pick-up. The drum beats killed Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” rendering the track useless. It was a costly learning experience.

Fast forward to the present:

In my zeal to conquer auditory problems associated with Yeti, an external device that connected into companion, iMac through “System Preferences,” I had completely overlooked Mac’s own built-in camera and its conspicuous reach beyond the living room into my kitchen. The sink, thank goodness was out of range but a prior iMovie “event” in progress had been canned after Aiden cat managed to put himself on camera, skittering across Apple’s mini keyboard, producing electronic belch bursts that turned Mozart trills into red-hot zingers.

The poor cat, in shock, was shuttled off to the bedroom, after which calmness prevailed, but for the phone ringing, a motorcycle whizzing by, and a helicopter circling the neighborhood in search of the latest drug trafficker. (This IS a good area, but like most there’s always a simmering mystery below the surface)

Ironically, my US attorney adult student had curtailed his lesson because of a “terrorist” threat of a nonspecific nature telling me it was best that I knew less not more. So out the door went Debussy’s Arabesque along with him.

Earlier in the day, Rina’s lesson, captured on iMovie, had some disturbing, out of synch (pronounced “sink”) frames, that hearkened back to the silent film era. (at least when our hands were still moving at the piano without sound) A great fade out.

How a version (event no. 5) of Mozart’s K. 545 managed to upload to You Tube amidst this chaos is a baffling miracle. Nevertheless, I’ll assess the mic placement upon video review, and muster the courage to tap in new “events” if anything unexpected crept into the track. Apologies for the messy kitchen.

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Grounded but surviving the media crash! (Videos)

This is a follow-up to my last heart-throbbing media burdened blog,


So it’s part 3, of this technology scripted soap opera. The fire wire card was not the problem as previously entertained, and after all the camcorder plug-ins and outs at Computer Mania in Fresno, my understandably exhausted Sony DCR-TRV 340 met its premature demise in the company of its identical twin.

Latest tentative diagnosis: The fire wire ports in both my camcorders might have burnt out simultaneously?? (Hot connections over time? Bad chip?) Experts at the COW Sony Vegas video editing forum “chipped” in:

One tech savvy forum moderator covered all tracks:

1. The original fire wire chip in the computer has faulted and fried both your cameras’ fire wire chips. (Yes!)
2. A faulty or mishandled fire wire cable has bent the tiny pins in the camera sockets. (A strong possibility)
3. Windows fire wire port has been grabbed by a web cam. (I don’t think so.. I am not getting any web cam transmission)
4. And Murphy’s Law – both your cameras’ fire wire chips went to Heaven together. (an untimely departure, Amen, in any case)

One of my cyber friends, a fine pianist with a tech proficient husband dispatched her mate to the scene. The cast of characters had been growing, with some “extra” support thrown in.

My subject: E mail:  SONY Fire wire, Help!!!

Enter the iMac, the one I SKYPED with.

Friendly assistance from afar:

“Have you tried connecting the camera(s) to your iMac? I think you do editing on PC but the iMac should have a fire wire port and should see the camera(s). That would tell us if it was the PC and not the cable or camera(s).”

Upstairs to my Dell PC, downstairs to iMac, the fire wire cable and power adapter dragged along. Plug in, plug out, slip and fall–my eye glasses fly off, buried somewhere in a heap of wires. The living room looks like a post war pile of rubble. Aiden cat has fled the scene, safely encapsulated in a cabinet somewhere in the house.

The camera device is not seen. My tech supporter tells me to call the nearest Mac store for further assistance. I should bring my cams along for state of the art testing. (Introduce a “modified fire wire cable 1EEE1934 with a bigger 800 size port”) What??

Before long, I’m driving off in my car beside a cache of wires, cams, power adapter, battery charger– off to Fashion Fair Mall Mac outlet to figure out if I can bypass the missing camera “device” on Sony Vegas editing program, and sub in with iMac/iMovie built-in software.

Luke greets me after he’s been tipped off by an Apple store Supervisor that I’m desperately in search of a solution. I’d been cut off by phone three times, finally getting hooked into the boss. He’d booked an emergency appointment for me at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night. A Fresno State Bulldog game cleared the crowds on a normally busy weekend. Catch the Bulldog fever! Rah! Rah!

Now we’re back to start: Luke connects a NEW, adaptable fire wire cable from my cams to the store model iMac without detecting any camera device. (So what else is new?)

USB works for web cam transmission but won’t do the editing job. I’m starting to jive with the lingo, but what to do next?

Luke shows me the way.

“Record and edit your music straight from the iMac” with that little green eye ministering to the whole process.

Is this my iMac Savior in waiting? I’ll be anxiously clicking the iMovie icon to find out.

I jot down every last WORD from the wise young man and head home with high hopes of absolution. I really feel bad about how I handled the Sony camcorders with the hot wire plug-ins. I did them wrong, destroying their very essence, and my last-ditch efforts to save them, were in vain.

I tell myself to put the whole ordeal behind me before I lose my sanity. I’ll forge a new connection, exploring an exciting UPDATED universe of media technology without ever looking back.

Re-charged with hope and optimism, I pore over my notes from Luke’s tutorial from the Mac store. He had walked me through every step OF THE WAY in precise detail. Ironically, two emissaries from the Watch Tower had knocked on my door earlier in the day, handing me their religious literature on the Jewish holiday, no less. They must have known where this was heading before it had all played out.

As fate would have it, I gave the iMac direct connection to videotaping a mighty try, that produced the following result:

OMG, this snatch of a Mozart sonata sounded like a canned Skype transmission!–an unjust and abysmal facsimile of my singing nightingale Haddorff piano. The instrument’s auditory imprint was unrecognizable.

I compared to a Sony camcorder rendering of “Fur Elise,” processed through Sony Vegas software on my Dell PC:

I sent my friendly, tech savvy tutor a despairing note with the You Tube link attached. I vowed to purchase a new camcorder at the soonest opportunity.

My frenzied email elicited a sobering response:

“Before buying another camera, consider whether you are happy with the video on your iMac but not the audio? If so, perhaps all you need is a microphone that doesn’t have to cost that much. Think about it. Just my 2 cents.”

He made a good point. In a state of emotional turmoil, I couldn’t think clearly, but as an after thought, did I really want to launch another expedition with unknown quantities? For sure, I would be consumed with type of mic, size, input, output, fidelity, and cost. The possibilities would be infinite. And how would I test the mics without first purchasing them one by one–plugging in each, ruminating over whether this or that particular model did the job. I could see myself traipsing to Sound Stage and Guitar Center for days on end in mad pursuit of capturing my three separate pianos with an assortment of mics. Another rampage set in motion. No thanks!

More frustration into the night. I’m poring over Camcorders at Amazon after having renewed my Consumer Reports subscription. Ratings, reviews, specs, comparisons to other cams. Complex graphs with strong and weak features. Confusing % measurements in CR.

I must extricate myself from this media driven rut and buy a new cam without a memory card, flash drive, and zillions of accessories that will rack my brain for days and weeks.

I’ll take a deep, wholesome breath and tap a user-friendly cam into the CART.. ready to buy!

I’ve chosen the Sony DCR-HC52 MiniDV Handycam Camcorder with 40x Optical Zoom.”

It has the cassettes I know well, but smaller, so I’ll have a familiar “interface” when I re-power up my Sony Vegas video editing program. I’m told that DCR-HC52 is compatible with iMac so who knows, this could turn out to be a marriage made in heaven.

In the meantime,

RIP: DCR-TRV 340’s.