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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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Blog favorite revival time.. THE MORNING AFTER YOU TUBING (with added color)

The day after I post a video is the crucial make or break juncture to delete or not to….
And all too often, an upload bites the dust with a private funeral of sorts, that leaves no remains.

But with my new iMac 21 having joined the family, video trashing has gone public. Through paper thin walls the neighbors can hear the crackle of my computer’s trash disposal which can be embarrassing. Most would wonder how the neighborhood piano teacher could produce so much garbage, spilling over the top, no less?

Bring on the mega-dumpsters!! Or find a landfill for sore eyes somewhere in the boonies outskirts, without a trace of detection.


Strangely, I’m in my Bach phase for reasons unknown. A musical flight of fancy can turn in any direction. Since performances of a composition will change as new ideas filter in, one might as well try them out on the You Tube stage, picking the brain and soul about what needs to happen the next time around.

The best barometer of a performance no matter when it pops up, is, as mentioned, whether the morning after you can still live with it. Worse case scenario, you will want to delete it without further ado. Or you may think you like it, only to let many mornings after go by, before you want to tear your hair out for having put it up in the first place. You wonder how many people managed to tolerate a particular phrase that you realized fell flat.

The best news is if you go cold turkey and shake off the addiction of watching the particular You Tube performance for at least 3 weeks. That means when you finally revisit the playing, having a safe distance from it, and still like it, then it’s a fait accomplis, –meaning it will stay posted until you have different creative ideas to offer at another time.

The process in never-ending. And that’s good!

Looking back on one of my earlier blogs, I had confronted head on, the issue of full-fledged You Tube Addiction. And ironically I tied in the Morning-After-Posting-Syndrome: MAPS

Here’s how it played out:

“Now I’m hooked! Looking feverishly at night for an excuse to turn on the camcorder and record something, anything I can find on the music rack or buried deep inside the piano bench. I won’t get through Sunday without that video cam staring me down, daring me to complete anything without a major meltdown. I see the red warning light on the cam, telling me I forgot to change the cassette. I’ll never finish my Bach Invention 8 in the few seconds I have left.

“Is this a bad dream or am I suffering full blown You Tube withdrawal symptoms? Where’s the 24-hour support group to contact at this ungodly hour?

“Are there others combing the shelves of their homes, digging up albums to prop up on their music rack so they can tweak the tripod, and charge up the battery for the zillionth time?

“It’s too quiet around here. All I can decipher through the weighted silence of my bedroom, is my cat’s jingling collar bell that lets me know where he is.

“When I You Tube, ‘Aiden,’ my gorgeous, affectionate male feline, is off limits in the recording area. But lately I’ve been thinking, if he learned to climb onto the keyboard, dance across it in a coquettish way, he might get more than a 1,000 “hits” in one day! Or better yet, I should train him to “play” the piano like Nora, the Cat of You Tube fame. No, that’s not where it’s at for You Tube fans. Aiden needs to learn how to flush the toilet or use it, himself. Now, we’re talking!

“No, I don’t need my pet hooked on the Internet. That will make two compulsively compromised inhabitants of this home.

“I think I’ll check my websites. Or shouldn’t I? That’s another burgeoning addiction. How many do I have now? I can hardly keep track of the hyperlinks to Digg, Twitter, Twitter meme, Etsy, OLX, that originate at Teach Street, Facebook, CD Baby, My Space, Amazon, Amazon Artist Store, Authors Den, and now Word Press. Oops I forgot Linked In, which may or may not connect up with Xing. Did I get them all right? Oops, I have to keep up with Craig’s List postings that are about to expire, and My Space has a Fusion unfriendly site where I always forget my password. Now I’m up to 9 letters that are so hard to remember, I’ll end up changing them in a day or two if I don’t lose my sanity before I next log in.

“Meanwhile, I should case out one of my sites that allows me free postings if I keep writing articles that award me ‘points.’ Uh oh, I forgot my password so I can’t get in. Where’s that shriveled up piece of paper with the gazillion passwords? Believe it or not, I’ve had worse tragedies in my life. Last month, during a web driven overhaul, my Teach credits disappeared along with my teacher reviews, bio entries, and YOU TUBE links! I must have sent twenty emails to the site manager that were crying out for help! Which reminds me, what about my you tube tags? They keep vanishing so I have to compulsively re-enter them. And if I don’t enter the aspect ratio code correctly, my videos will come up beside Narco, X Files, and Internet love sites. This is driving me mad!

“Okay, it’s nearly 3 a.m. and I can’t silence the You Tube gremlins who are telling me to sign in and upload, NOW!!

“But I’m going to tough it out and go cold turkey. (Ah, so that’s how I handled the problem back then… redux)

“..the only way to put these demons in their place once and for all!”

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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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Playing piano and getting into the spirit (Video with Aiden cat joining in)

It’s holiday time, and we’re all eating with gusto. In honor of Thanksgiving, we completely let go, pardoning ourselves of any rigid diet that would preclude an all out splurge.

So now, enter the piano, as a feast of delights waiting for the player to partake without a hint of holding back. It seems like climbing a mountain.

Agreed that you must learn the notes carefully at first and parcel out the fingering, etc. It takes patience. A famous piano teacher, Irena Orlov, from the Levine School of Music in D.C. recommends that students master one measure per day, particularly when faced with technically challenging pieces. Just imagine how well a pupil would know the Mozart Rondo Allegretto K. 545 after just 76 days! Not an impossible task, considering that a baby needs more than a year to learn to walk.

It’s all relative….

Tonight I was shuffling between my Haddorff console and Steinway grand piano, deciding which instrument would best suit the Mozart I had previously mentioned, and then again, Aiden was bench hopping so I allowed it because of the holidays. I reasoned, why not include him in a recording session in between turkey treat nibbles. He needn’t be shooed into the bedroom in solitary confinement every time I attempted to capture some music on my Imac.

Sad to say, by lifting restrictions on his comings and goings, he killed two especially good readings of the Rondo. In one he managed to squiggle off the piano bench, meandering his way to the window sill where he orchestrated his usual racket. (When iMac is capturing an EVENT he knows just when to paw the shutters to bring any and all music to a grinding halt) Naturally, as soon as I sense his general direction, my playing begins to deteriorate. A glaring case of anticipatory anxiety.

Irena Orlov would have interjected in her Russian accent, but dorogaya moya, Дорогая моя (“my dear”) you hev to learn to concentrate.. and maybe you need to think one measure at a time.”

Redux: Aiden did it again, but on the third warning, he abandoned his monkey business and jumped off the piano bench and settled into his favorite chair. (off camera)

What has all this to do with playing piano and getting into the spirit?

The basic lesson to be learned is that you must find a place within yourself where music totally absorbs you and allows no room for distraction.

What other reason is there to take up the piano in the first place if not to be immersed in a spiritual process.


Tonight after I had gorged myself silly on turkey, homemade stuffing, and pumpkin pie, I wobbled over to the piano, and reclaimed my right to channel Mozart without a hitch. Aiden was hanging around being otherwise quiet until…

That’s in the past now, because the Mozart Rondo made it to You Tube while two other playings were “moved to the trash.”


Link to Documentary about Irena Orlov: