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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:

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A different view of Bach and the piano (Prelude in C) Video

On a whim, I decided to keep my Mac at a distance from the Steinway, walk over to the piano without being too conspicuous, and offhandedly play the Bach Prelude in C from the Well-Tempered Clavier. Since I hadn’t yet mastered the editing side of iMovie, I figured a majestic lead into the playing would still work even with my back turned to the camera as I made my way to the piano bench.

In any case, I would preserve unedited moments with the flick of my Sony Cyber-shot digital if I had successfully trimmed the footage.

The upper screen had the original frames before they were transferred to the editing arena down below.

So here’s how it played out after I had managed editing and uploading. (A sigh of relief!)


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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.